Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy
  • Geoffrey Liu
  • Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy

Music and balmy 80-degree weather make for a perfect summer night, especially when it comes right after a torturous heat wave that can only be explained as the wrath of God. Everyone at the Wilco and Andrew Bird show this Sunday at the ballpark in Geneva seemed buoyed by the long-awaited temperature drop, from the performers to the guys hawking beer in the stands.

On his records, Bird can sound detached, his lyrics distant in their arch intellectuality. Peter Margasak calls him “too clever by half,” and the indie wizard can sound impressive but unapproachable. Onstage, though, human warmth shines through and his quirkiness is entirely charming.

His first song was “Dark Matter,” a wink in the direction of the nearby Fermilab (this is the first concert where I’ve heard drunken shouts of “Higgs boson!” from the audience). Under a cloudless blue sky, he smiled widely, whistled soulfully, and made the giant stadium feel small and intimate.

It’s also easier to appreciate the incredible range of his talents live. You come in already knowing that he’s classically trained in violin and can play more instruments at one time than the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, but it’s more impressive to actually see him with a guitar in one hand, a violin in the other, and a glockenspiel to his side. He can juggle genres just as easily as instruments, plucking like a country fiddler at one point and then looping screeches into his spinning Liederhorn (that’s a speaker, by the way, not a magical creature.) And the man, I must say, plays a gorgeous violin.

Wilco then arrived and, this being Wilco’s town, they made the stadium feel very, very big.