A sold-out crowd at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre Tuesday night was treated to an expectedly excellent two-hour set from Wilco, spanning from the electric churn of new album opener “Art of Almost” and sing-a-long catharsis of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to the infectious bounce of “Walken.”
The seeming effortlessness of the band’s cohesive and constantly engaging live show is kind of a wonder. Jeff Tweedy’s variously confounding, confessional and subversive lyrics and the sheer technical mastery of the entire band — especially of guitarist Nels Cline, who Tweedy warned was in danger of moving up a notch on that silly Rolling Stone list — adhere perfectly. Remember that “dad rock” meme that sprung up around Wilco several years back? Their live show decimates the concept.
Now, imagine what it must be like to open for one of the great American contemporary rock bands. Austin, Texas four-piece White Denim proved itself up to the task Tuesday, motoring through a handful of tunes — mostly from acclaimed 2011 release D — in a tidy, sub-30 minute set.
Oftentimes, constraining a jam band’s tendencies to sprawl and sprawl and sprawl some more can be healthy, but in White Denim’s case, 30 minutes hardly seems enough for it to establish its presence. Here, we have the rare jam band not so caught up in its own headspace, unspooling minute after excruciating minute, thrilling everyone except those in the audience. Rather, these guys are having fun, and it’s catchy. The irrepressible grin of guitarist Austin Jenkins radiated from above his garage rock riffs, and frontman James Petralli’s smooth wail guided the band down avenues of psychedelia, funk and down-and-dirty rock ‘n’ roll.
I have no doubt Wilco fans of all stripes walked away from Tuesday’s show with their love for Tweedy and Co. reaffirmed, but the brief taste of the good times rock of White Denim surely made its own tantalizing impression. Bring on their own Seattle headlining show.