Two weeks to the day after Father John Misty put on an excellent show for a slightly more than half capacity Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Wilco entered the venue and pulled off the rare feat of a Monday sellout on Oct. 9.
Backed by a forest set design not too different from that of the Asheville Masonic Temple’s upstairs room — a space slightly too small for a six-piece Wilco, but a tantalizing pairing nonetheless — the Chicago rockers sounded remarkably fresh for a band nearly 25 years into its run.
As evinced by frontman Jeff Tweedy switching out guitars for nearly every tune, the career-spanning set of just below 30 songs showcased the sonic and temporal variety that’s made it one of the world’s most revered groups.
The ensemble’s rich instrumentation meshing from the get-go, Tweedy’s warm, slightly nasally vocals remained a pleasant constant throughout the evening, livened by the drum kit dexterity of Glenn Kotche. Off to the far side of stage left, the visually entertaining Pat Sansone operated in a musical roundabout of sorts, spinning between keys, synths and piano, with a banjo solo and lead guitar work tossed in, but earning the loudest cheers was guitarist Nels Cline.
While informed listeners knew there’d be a long, technically challenging solo to close out The Whole Love opener “Art of Almost,” an unexpected delight arrived later in the night when Cline delivered an incredible, sustained full-body workout on “Impossible Germany,” obliterating the already impressive studio version.
Solidifying its reputation of playing well with others, Wilco brought out jazz guitarist Julian Lage for “Forget the Flowers” and added him and opener Margaret Glaspy for “California Stars,” on which she contributed an excellent six-string solo of her own.
Noticeably moved by the audience response, Tweedy saluted the crowd multiple times with a lift of his hat, several of which served as signals that the band’s departure from the stage was eminent. These exits were short-lived, however, as the generous core set gave way to not one, but two encores, the second of which blasted off with a melancholic yet ultimately triumphant singalong to Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” and ended with the more mellow yet equally nourishing “The Late Greats.”