Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Wilco

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Wilco performed at the Arkansas Music Pavilion in Fayetteville Thursday night.
  • Wilco performed at the Arkansas Music Pavilion in Fayetteville Thursday night.

Last night at Fayetteville’s Arkansas Music Hall, the members of Wilco took the stage like they have something to prove. And perhaps they do. In the past year the band's new album, “The Whole Love,” has been both critically acclaimed and panned as “dad rock.” Five months after its release, critic Nitsuh Abebe called Wilco “new adult contemporary” and “NPR Muzak” in New York magazine, maybe because a month earlier, NPR dubbed Wilco “perhaps America’s best band.”

I don’t own a Wilco album past “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” and I haven’t listened to “The Whole Love” beyond online samples. But after last night, I think I’ll buy everything the band has ever put out. The show was more than solid — it was fresh, throbbing, expansive and experimental. Wilco gave a seamless performance, befitting the band that pioneered alt-country and then continued to exorcise their discontent, culling from the groups they’ve played with (Sonic Youth, Radiohead) and the music they were brought up on (the entire cannon of American and British post-invasion rock). Wilco has come through the honky-tonk trainwreck of too many hotel rooms and too many pills and delivered an ellipses of something akin to hope — power-pop dosed with the bleeps, blips and textural effects of urban decay, filtered through the orchestral soundscapes of musical maestros. The live performance managed surprises and immediacy, without sacrificing the albums’ studio effects.

They opened with "Misunderstood," from 1996’s “Being There.” It’s pretty, sentimental and melancholic — “thank you all for nothing, nothing at all,” Tweedy crooned. It was a confounding beginning until it hit a stunning, disconcordant break — a mid-song boulder of screaming, pounding instruments and clashing lazers. Then, there was a quiet return, a sigh and a reining-in. This was to become the trademark of the show — art rock as yoga, where everything is about breath and the explosive revelation that comes after contemplation. Singularly and as a whole, these songs and this set contracted and expanded, spacing out and speeding up, rendering the studied unexpected.

Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt are the core of Wilco. They’re the only original members, and last night, Stirratt’s backing vocals came through nearly as strong as Tweedy’s lead. Tweedy seemed relaxed but focused — he wasn’t in the mood to chat or noodle. Pat Sansone was playful and entertaining, hopping from guitar to keyboard to maracas, whirlwind arm and classic stances on display, while guitarist Nels Cline, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and drummer Glenn Kotche were straight up noise contortionists, constructing elaborate architecture around familiar melodies. Wilco plays as a collective rather than a collection of musicians, and this was an avant garde mission rather than a recital. Wilco has a nine album catalogue of songs, and they pulled from all of it and never stopped pushing. Over two hours (a set and two encores), the sounds and the performance increased in swagger and intensity.

The crowd was older — more middle-aged singer-songwriter types than traditional college students — and they seemed largely appreciative. The “Summerteeth” track "A Shot in the Arm" and anything off “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" were obvious hits. They played the gorgeously tragic "Jesus, Etc." and later, the nostalgic "Heavy Metal Drummer," which highlighted Striatt’s earnest vocals and showcased the crowd's penchant for singalongs.

When everything is flawlessly executed, it's hard to name standouts, but I’d go with "Via Chicago." The song itself is hypnotically beautiful, which made what came next — the hailstorm of strobes and sound courtesy of Cline, Jorgensen, Kotche and Sansone — all the more startling. But the best part was that underneath and throughout the anomalous chaos, Tweedy and Stirratt held fast to the fragile melody, coming out of the other side of the noise all the more impressive, exquisite and reassuring because of it. It was kind of a metaphor for Wilco itself.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Cheree Franco

Readers also liked…

  • Live Review: The Polyphonic Spree at Stickyz

    This fall The Polyphonic Spree is celebrating the 15th anniversary of their debut, "The Beginning Stages of ...", with a tour of Europe and North America. The Dallas, Texas band formed in July 2000, born from the sparkling mind of lead vocalist Tim DeLaughter. Tim and his band — a group of about 20 musicians — are currently on tour and performing their entire debut along with other originals and a few surprises. Returning from their stint in Europe, they came through Little Rock with a blazing performance at Stickyz Tuesday night.,
    • Oct 23, 2015
  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015
  • Judge anticipates punishment of lawyers in Fort Smith class action case

    Federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith issued a 32-page ruling yesterday indicating he contemplates punishment of 16 lawyers who moved a class action lawsuit against an insurance company out of his court to a state court in Polk County after a settlement had been worked out.
    • Apr 15, 2016

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation