Saw Andrew Bird and Wilco at Tanglewood last night. They run a tight ship over there—Bird stepped onstage promptly at the advertised time of 6:30. He launched into a couple of solo numbers which began with his signature pizzicato violin, to which he added layers (thanks to loop pedals) of bowing, singing, and his prodigious whistling punctuated with some occasional glockenspiel. His band joined him on stage for the rest of the set, which was brilliant, weird, and excitingly fresh. The crowd was fuller and an order of magnitude more energized for the main act, Wilco, which was surprising because Wilco’s show, while very good, was considerably less inspired. I had read that Wilco is famous for being stylistically diverse. Perhaps that is true of their recordings, but on stage, they happily embrace the strutting personas of arena rock stars hammering through their catalog of hits.
Tanglewood, by the way, is the most fabulous and distinctive venue for rock shows I’ve ever seen, for several reasons: It is a beautiful location. It has pretty remarkable acoustics (for a shed). The security is friendly and unobtrusive—no bag checks or pat-downs—and the few cops I spotted were chatting boisterously with concertgoers. You can BYOB (or anything else you want). Vendors sell only reasonably-priced beer and ice cream from local New England suppliers (Ben & Jerry’s, Magic Hat, Sam Adams). The grounds are meticulously clean. Parking is easy. Restrooms are plentiful. And strangely enough for a rock show, there is not a single piece of advertising anywhere—just you, nature, a stage, and music. Now if only you didn’t have to drive!