The opening titles of Sam Jones’ 2002 film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart features an acoustic performance of the song of the same name, set to drive-by shots of downtown Chicago. On the DVD commentary track, Jones says that he was trying to recreate how he first fell in love with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: when frontman Jeff Tweedy drove him around the city playing demo tapes.
Funny enough, I fell in love with the album in pretty much the same way. It was the summer of 2002 and my summer job required me to drive into Halifax for a couple of hours each Friday. I used to put on YHF and just drive around downtown through the entire album, from “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” through to the dénouement outro of “Reservations.” Week after week, beautiful sunny day or thundering rainstorm, I would let Halifax’s modest skyscrapers roll by while Jeff Tweedy sang of cameras, wars on war and ashes of American flags.
So last Wednesday, I had to smile when Tweedy, looking across the harbour from the Alderney Lading stage where Wilco were playing their first ever concert here, commented about how beautiful the Halifax skyline looked. Opening the concert with “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” only sealed the deal.
There’s a problem with going to a concert by a band that you really love: you’re bound to be disappointed. You’re so familiar with their back catalogue and have so many obscure favourites that there’s probably a list of a dozen songs that you will be disappointed when you don’t hear.
So it’s a testament to Wilco that they hardly played any of my obscure favourites – heck, they didn’t even play “Heavy Metal Drummer” which is about rock concerts by the LANDING in the SUMMER (jeesh, that should have been a no-brainer) – and I still left with the biggest stupid smile on my face.
The lineup that Tweedy has assembled for this incarnation of Wilco is simply stunning. What impressed me the most was their ability to make the noise that goes along with the band’s more esoteric songs actually sound melodic while still rocking at the same time. They were loose while still tight, all over the place but completely together.
I really don’t know what else to say about the show, other than that if you weren’t there, you should have been. Amazing.
1. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
2. War on War
3. Impossible Germany (new song)
4. Handshake Drugs
5. A Shot in the Arm
6. Via Chicago
7. What Light (new song)
8. The Late Greats
9. At Least That’s What You Said
10. Jesus Etc.
13. I’m The Man Who Loves You
16. Airline to Heaven
17. Hesitating Beauty
19. California Stars
20. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
*photos taken by Mr. Calum MacLeod.