(Per protocol, the Tribune originally planned on covering Wilco’s opening performance on Sunday. Two days before the show, the group’s publicist indicated a band member would likely miss it for personal reasons and requested we review another night to hear the complete sextet. However, the absence didn’t occur, and no further information was provided. Wilco played with its full lineup on Sunday.)
Having just commemorated its 25th anniversary, the Wilco of today bears just a passing resemblance to the mid-90s collective once saddled with an Americana label. The stark differences extend beyond the lineup and to the music itself, which continues to evolve. Released in October, the group’s “Ode to Joy” album finds Wilco operating in an introspective, headphone-ready mode that tends to come across more as the latest in a series of solo efforts from leader Jeff Tweedy.
Free of the sparse studio approach and afforded the advantages of live band interaction, several works from the new record — particularly the warm-blanket comfort provided by “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” — blossomed into rich sound paintings that demanded contributions from everyone on stage. Others, like the ruminative “Bright Leaves” and plain “White Wooden Cross,” struggled to fight a built-in loneliness and transcend a downcast nature underscored by Tweedy’s quiet, sung-spoken deliveries. At one point, he even cracked, “Let’s get back to our regularly programmed sadness.”