Some things never change. Wilco and Sleater-Kinney gave audiences at Red Butte Garden Sunday exactly what fans have come to expect from either bands’ live shows. These are the patrons and matrons of their respective genres who keep every number tight and technically clean, whether it’s a new release or a song they’ve been performing for 20 years.
Some things have changed, however. The members of the bands were spaced out 6 feet apart and transparent plastic barricades were erected around the stage. Oh, and we’ve all gotten a lot older. The bands show their enduring appeal though, with the number of multi-generational parties in attendance. Parents were on their feet, dancing and clapping along with their teenaged progeny.
Chicago-based NNAMDÏ opened the night sporting an arm in a sling, saying, “My Bird scooter decided to take a little expedition into a pothole.” The ensemble has an experimental punk flavor with an undercurrent of levity in some songs, likewise demonstrated even by his on-stage jokes (“I never paid attention to how much I used my left hand.”). The tone shifted more toward the serious with the rest of the evening but you wound’t know that given the life in the audience at Red Butte.
Sleater-Kinney opened their set with the title track from their new album, Path to Wellness. It’s Sleater-Kinney’s first record without longtime drummer, Janet Weiss, since Dig Me Out (1997). While the album falls into occasional meandering with a lack of drive (perhaps the absence of Weiss’s influence), the live performance breathes more energy into the title track and beyond.
The rest of their setlist blended the old (“Modern Girl” from 2005’s The Woods and the title track of 2002’s One Beat) and the new (“Price Tag” off of 2015’s No Cities to Love, “Can I Go On” from 2019’s The Center Won’t Hold and “Down the Line” on Path of Wellness). The set is bolstered by Carrie Brownstein’s and Corin Tucker’s undeniable chemistry on stage, even when spaced apart, and Brownstein brings the energy, busting out dance moves, wicked grins and high kicks in high-waisted leather shorts.
Wilco, meanwhile, brings a different sort of ponderous energy, opening their set with the crowd-pleaser, “A Shot In The Arm” from the essential album Summerteeth (1999). Even performing veterans like Wilco slip up from time to time. Frontman Jeff Tweedy started singing one song and the band started playing another. They course corrected quickly, with Tweedy saying, “I know what the song is now.” The audience was forgiving (even charmed), given the 512 days between this tour and the last. It’s also the longest time the song, “Box Full of Letters,” from the 1995 album AM, had gone without being performed.
Wilco rounded out their set with popular tracks from their expansive discography, like “Dawned on Me” (The Whole Love, 2011), “Jesus, Etc.” (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002) and “If I Ever Was A Child” (Schmilco, 2016). The alt rock band also has a new(ish) album out. They had to push back live touring, including the It’s Time tour (originally slated for last year) and their tour for their latest album, Ode To Joy. Tweedy also had a solo album out in 2020, Love Is The King, concurrently published with a book, also by Tweedy, How To Write A Song.