Wilco is Onstage: Put Your Damn Cell Phone Away

Photo: Consequence of Sound

Photo: Consequence of Sound

If you go see Wilco it’s okay to bring a cell phone, but really a good idea to put it away when Tweedy comes onstage. And if you’re sitting in the front rows, where he can actually see you, it’s a goddamned great idea to put it away because if he sees you using it during the show, which he will, he will talk to you about it. Into the microphone, so booming-loud. And he’ll tease you, and taunt you and call you a motherfucker. Inciting the derisive laughter of everyone else in the hall, many of whom are also using their phones, only out of sight. And this happened last night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Or. And was followed an hour later by Tweedy actually stepping forward to snatch another person’s cell phone, raised either to shoot pictures or a video of an encore, out of their hands and, after a victory salute, tossing it to the rear of the stage.

Was Tweedy  advocating for his art or just overreacting in a way that, if you think about it for a moment, you just know a guy who writes songs like that would react. Because his art matters that much to him, and also because it hurts him, psychically and maybe even physically, to create it. But he has no choice must because that’s the pain that makes the music, and him, more beautiful. And even if the other thousands of folks are alternately rapt and cheering him along it’s that one phone he can’t not see. Because the phone, in that moment, symbolizes all the humiliation he’s ever had to suffer to do what he does. And that person holding it, sitting there right up close where the artist can’t help but look for signs of his audience’s approval or disinterest, won’t be touched by what he’s working so hard to do. And, in the interests of emotional, physical and creative survival, must be destroyed.

That’s how it seemed to me, anyway. It was a beautiful show.

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