by DJ Nae, Co-Host of Common People
Best known for their heavily influential album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco exemplifies the genre of Alt-country but also takes it to a weird place. This is all conveyed from the view of fan-girl that idolized the group during her most musically influential years. After a confusing latter chapter of the bands career (see post A Ghost is Born years), I had not paid attention to their newest release. Sky Blue Sky, featured in various car adverts, marked a decline that would culminate in a self-titled album that even Wilco super-fans didn’t really like. You really have to take a moment to reflect when you’re buying the newest album of your indie-heroes in a Starbucks, even if they have been on a major label for years. Yet, the new album The Whole Love marked a regression to what worked for the band. With a re-sparked interest and a tiny grudge against ticket prices, I headed to Spokane on February 6th to witness a band that I had once idolized age gracefully before my eyes.
I reasonably had my reservations (no pun intended) about seeing any band at a venue with seats in it, but Wilco is one of those bands everyone has to see once in their lives. The band went so far as to mention their appreciation for the Spokanites standing throughout the show. The crowd consisted of a lot of aging-hipsters and even some children. There was also a surprising amount of young teens who seemed to be rocking out more than many of the scene vets. The show opened with a pretty elaborate light display onto hanging reeds all over the stage and each of the band members (a revolving door of pretty talented instrumentalists) seemed to occupy their own space. Tweedy stood in the middle dressed like a counter-culture farmer not a day over 43. When he began singing his voice was as good as one could have hoped for. Cigarettes will do that for you? He tweaked the cadence in his songs enough for you to appreciate the live-aspect of the show.
I have to admit, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get my money’s worth. Wilco isn’t one of those bands that just plays through their newest album release, they are there to give you a show. After all of these years the group has become seasoned in the best possible sense. Wilco played songs from every album in their Jeff Tweedy lead catalogue. He even mentioned that they liked to give equal opportunity to every album, even if that meant including the album that isn’t everyone’s favorite. I think old and new fans alike appreciated him hanging a lantern on the self-titled debacle. I guess when one moves beyond their mistakes, they can laugh in retrospect.
A definite highlight was the amazing guitar solo performed by Nels Cline and a play through of “Jesus, Etc.” resulting from a fan poll on the bands official website (wilcoworld.net). Tweedy implied that he was really going to make the night for the 12 people in the audience that participated. Some odd aspects of the show included intermittent and ill-placed cacophonies during the otherwise sweet song “Via Chicago” and a slightly off solo during “At Least That’s What You Said” (which still managed to be a show highlight for me).
So, in 2012, Wilco’s sounding like Wilco again, I am accepting that I am no longer very out of place in a crowd of yuppies, and an audience full of people can die happy having seen Wilco play almost every great song they have produced.