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Wilco Make Triumphant Return to Australia

Our review of the iconic rock band’s much-anticipated Sydney Opera House performance


Mikki Gomez

Wilco, one of modern rock music’s finest bands, sure do suffer from a lot of tiresome online jokes: they’re often belittled as being a simple ‘dad-rock’ band, their music only for white suburban males of a certain vintage. (Jeff Tweedy, quite rightly, has no time for the critique, calling it “reductive.”)

Inside Sydney Opera House last week, at Wilco’s first Australian visit in 11 long years, two things were clear: they do attract a lot of older male fans, adorned in flannel, but they’re also one of the coolest fucking bands on the planet, their music made for everyone to enjoy.

Walking in as a relative novice – I’ve yet to extensively explore their 13 albums (to date) – the passion of those around me was obvious. Those wearing Wilco merch had waited patiently for over a decade to see their favourite band up close again, and they were going to make the most of the occasion.

Since Tweedy and his bandmates were last here, they’ve released five albums, which meant they had a lot of new material to explore in Sydney, spanning different genres and styles, from mesmerising alt-country to profound indie rock.

As five past nine sounded, Wilco wandered on stage with all the confidence of seasoned rockers, and the crowd roared like a starving lion about to be fed dinner.

They jumped straight into “Hell Is Chrome” off their 2004 album, A Ghost Is Born, before tackling another track from that record, “Handshake Drugs”. “To the handshake drugs I bought downtown”, Tweedy starkly sung.

They travelled to their newest album, [2023’s] Cousin, to perform “Pittsburgh”. It was a pleasure to be listening to a gentle country ballad at one moment, an iconic rock song the next.

The band then proceeded to work through a carefully curated set that spanned three decades of stunning work, from the rich country blues off 2022’s Cruel Country to the timeless rock sounds of their masterpiece, 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Credit: Mikki Gomez

“We don’t talk a lot,” Tweedy confessed to the amused crowd in between songs. “It’s great to be back after ten years. We have a lot to get through.” Speaking of performing inside the famous Sydney Opera House, Tweedy quipped: “It’s funny to be playing inside a sculpture.” 

“I feel like I have my baptism choir behind me,” he added of the Opera House crowd that were sitting behind him at the 360-degree venue. “I almost feel like it’s one of those experiments when a dog chooses between owners!”

After almost every song, at least a few people around me rose to their feet to give the band a standing ovation; it was that kind of emotive evening. An encore was loudly received, and Wilco seemed genuinely taken aback by the shower of adulation. 

“Thanks again, Sydney. We hope to see you soon,” Tweedy told the crowd towards the end of their encore. I hope so too, Jeff. We all do.