Wilco and Molly Sarles performed “Ode to Joy” tour at Cain’s Ballroom to long-time fans.
Cain’s Ballroom hosted a different kind of concert than one I’ve ever been to on Tuesday evening. Wilco, with opener Molly Sarles, brought a completely unique sound and energy to Tulsa’s historic concert hall that permeated the entire city while they were here. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Magic City Books posted a photo of Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s lead singer, signing a limited number of copies of his autobiography in their store, emphasizing the interconnectivity of downtown Tulsa’s art community.
Wilco formed in 1994 after the dissolving of the alt-country band Uncle Tupelo. The current six-person group only has two remaining original band members; lead singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt. The current tour focuses on the release of their 2019 album, “Ode to Joy,” the band’s 11th studio album. The concert also featured fan favorite songs spanning across the entire timeline of the band’s career.
Molly Sarle, an eclectic artist from North Carolina, opened up the Tuesday show. Her voice is equal parts haunting and motherly, a sort of warm discomfort that reminded me of an itchy blanket. Sarle and two accompanying musicians commanded the audience, casting an ethereal and whimsical shadow across the room. Sarle discussed how the release of her first full-length album, “Karaoke Angel,” was largely brought about by the performance art of karaoke which she identifies as a beautiful form of self-expression.
Following Sarle’s exit from the stage, I started to notice that I appeared to be the youngest person at the venue. The older crowd made sense to me given the age of the band, and I was pleasantly surprised by how this positively influenced the concert-going experience. The low-key nature of the entire concert somehow made it more rock and roll. Everybody was very much vibing and just swaying back and forth as a collective mass;it felt very cathartic and unifying.
Almost all of the songs featured very simple drum beats with random electric guitar licks. Any song played above 80 beats per minute seemed like a rave-type bop since the general feel of the evening was so mellow. Somehow the layers of very individual instrumentation created a very cohesive sound. To me, this served as logical reasoning for why Wilco has been such a consistently popular band for decades.
No one in the band seemed particularly concerned with always being exactly on the beat or together, but this to me is the ideal form of live music. It’s nice when an artist actually sounds like their recording, but when it’s a carbon copy of an album, I don’t see the point in bothering to hear it live. Concert-goers clearly included long time fans who were singing along to every song. 50-something men and women held rock-and-roll hand signs above their heads and whooped and cheered all evening long.
The entire demeanor of the evening and the band’s sound reminded me of one of two scenes in a movie; either when the star-crossed lovers first meet and their eyes lock from across the room, or when a lover has just been left is drinking alone at a bar. I think this emotional reaction to Wilco’s music is a real testament to the group’s reach and their musicianship.