Live review: Wilco + Courtney Marie Andrews, The Forum, London – 30th August 2023

Not a huge venue, not The Harpa in Reykjavik, but still a beautiful venue nestling in amongst the train tracks and Victorian semis of North London. The last time this correspondent caught Wilco in a venue this small was in 2007 at the Shepherds Bush Empire when Bill Fay joined them for an encore of ‘Be Not So Fearful’  and to be fair several of the songs that appeared tonight appeared that night too. But that is not a complaint, not in any way.

The evening began with Courtney Marie Andrews, the excellent Loose alumni. Ably supported by two polished yet relaxed musicians she managed to quell the chat in the Hall as people took notice of the sharp lyricism and soaring voice set to some delightful melodies particularly when she switched from guitar to Rhodes piano but she was seemingly gone as soon as she appeared and the venue filled to capacity for the headliners.

Given the depth of the back catalogue the opening number is always a statement of intent and following some distorted noise the beautiful ‘Hell is Chrome‘ emerged shiny as a new thing with Jeff Tweedy almost whispering into the mic as he hit the higher notes. Nels Cline imperious to his right squealed off the the first solo and immediately we all knew we were in safe hands and that it was going to be a show emphasising the noise as well as the melody and so it was. The set leaned heavily on A Ghost is Born and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot  with some choice quotes from others including live favourite ‘Impossible Germany‘ from Sky Blue Sky featuring the now obligatory Cline wig out before the dual guitar denouement. ‘Bird without a Tail/Base of My Skull’ has turned, as predicted in the review of Cruel Country in these pages, into an extraordinary guitar duel between Pat Sansone and the aforementioned Cline before finishing with such delicacy and precision. The only new track from the forthcoming Cousin album was ‘Evicted’ which felt freer and warmer than the studio version. This lot clearly enjoy playing together and that infectious joy fills the music with heart and emotion. John Stirrat was immense on bass with running fills and coursing lines as well as backing vocals applied with vigour whilst Glenn Kotche was, as ever, a whirling dervish on the drums conjuring cross rhythms and extraordinary percussive noises that bent and reshaped familiar tunes. And, seemingly quietly, at the back, often hidden by Cline, Mikael Jorgensen rooted the entire noise with his industry. Pat Sansone’s multi instrumentalism was shown off tonight as he switched from virtuoso to team player and back again whether with keys, guitars or even percussion. And central throughout was Jeff Tweedy, pulling strings and grins in equal measure, roaring and mewling, hauling his songs across the musical tapestries provided by his chums and polishing each one in a different hue to last time they were heard live such is his talent.

This is a very slick operation, with a great light show and pin perfect sound but Tweedy’s diffidence and extraordinary songs keep things personal. The encore of the song ‘You and I’ with Courtney Marie Andrews was delivered with real feeling and affection and emphasised that this was emotional music to be savoured on every level from the heart to the head. After two hours the audience and band were done and what a two hours. Wonderful!

About Keith Hargreaves 393 Articles
Riding the one eyed horse into dead town the scales fell from his eyes. Music was the only true god at once profane and divine The dust blew through his mind as he considered the offering... And then he scored it out of ten and waited for the world to wake up
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