Roger, Wilco… I hear you loud and clear!

Review of the Wilco concert November 29th at the State Fair Music Hall, Dallas, Texas.

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Wilco is one of America’s finest Rock-n-Roll bands.  I know many people have never heard of them, but that doesn’t matter.  Popularity has nothing to do with quality.  And quality Rock-n-Roll is what you get with Wilco.  Since their is a good chance you don’t know who they are a little background is appropriate.  Wilco was formed from the ashes of the great band Uncle Tupelo.  Uncle Tupelo was a folk rock, roots rock band that was formed by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco’s lead singer) and Jay Farrar (Lead singer of Son Volt)  Jay and Jeff were like Lennon and McCartney.  They were highly talented, ambitious, song writers.  And just like Lennon and McCartney they couldn’t get along.  Jay wanted to continue in the Country Rock/Americana vein and Jeff wanted to continue in the Rock/Blues/Jazz/Roots vein.  They split the band and in 1995 Wilco put out their first album “A.M.”  Jay Farrar went his own way and formed Son Volt.  Both bands have done very well.  The two bands sound very different.  Wilco now has 11 Cd’s out, if you count the two they made with Billy Bragg.

The concert started with Nick Lowe.  Nick Lowe has written a lot songs that you would know.  You just might not know that he wrote them.  Songs like “What’s so Funny ’bout Peace, Love, and Understanding, ” or “Cruel to be Kind”.  He also covered Allison by Elvis Costello.  You rarely see a musician who is so confident of the power of his songs he will perform them with just his voice and a guitar.  His set was simply great.  He reminds me of Nick Drake.

After a brief intermission, it was finally time for Wilco.  I have wanted to see this band for years so needless to say I was pumped up for it.  They opened their set with the first song from their new CD The Whole Love:  One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend).  This is a long sprawling masterpiece of a song that starts like a ballad and ends up like a progressive rock song.  This is typical of Wilco.  They juxtapose beauty with discordance.  Dissonance is a vital part of their sound.  They are not afraid to make a lot of noise.  A simple song morphs into a sonic experiment at the drop of a hat.  At one turn the music and lyrics are heartrendingly beautiful and at the next turn you think your speakers are going to melt from the sonic energy this band creates.  As you can see from my photo’s I had a great seat.   I was about 30 rows back near the center of the stage.  The stage design looked like a weeping willow with handkerceifs tied in the branches.  This created many beautiful moments from the light show.

There were many highlights.  The Art of Almost, I am Trying to Break Your Heart, One wing (This is one of my favorite Wilco songs.  I love the lyrics:  “One wing will never fly, love.  Nether yours or mine.  I fear we can only wave bye, bye…).  The menacing sound of Bull Black Nova was followed by the beauty of Impossible Germany.  The show built to the powerful conclusion of Shot in the Arm.  The crowd chanted with Tweedy as he  pleaded “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm,  maybe all I need is a shot in the arm.  Something in my veins bloodier than blood!”  

The first Encore reached back to their very first CD.  The song is called “Passenger Side”  a great Country/Rock ballad about a guy who has had his drivers licence suspended. “I don’t like driving on the passenger side!”  Before they played the next song Jeff Tweedy introduced the song by saying “This is the closest thing we have to a hit.”  They then rendered an enthusiastic performance of Heavy Metal Drummer.  The show closed with the uplifting love song “I’m the Man Who Loves You…”

Beautiful songs, beautiful lyrics, beautifully played.  More people should know about this fantastic group of musicians.  I told a lot of people I was going to this show and the first comment back was always “Who’s Wilco?”  Well, the show was sold out and the crowd knew every word to every song.  It was a giant love fest for Wilco, and I was among my people a last.  If you get the chance go see them and buy their records.  The new record The Whole Love is just fantastic.  The CD is their first record released on their own label; dBpm Records.  Support great rock-n-roll and great musicians.

So that’s a wrap.  Roger, Wilco.  Over and out…

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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4 Responses to Roger, Wilco… I hear you loud and clear!

  1. Bob says:

    One Sunday Morning is a beautiful accoustic track, found at the end of the album, and is so subdued that the audience falls to a hush, and in terms of noise the sound you hear is your heart beating. I am happy to see a new convert on board and remember every show is different, and every arrangement is different. I am seeing them all 5 shows in Chicago and I know for sure I will hear many songs repeaterd, but nothing will sound the same. Great review by the way ,and I sent it to all of my non believer friends and they want to see for themselves. Well thought out reviews like this make people want to see a show. Wilco, some new band, whomever, benefits from a look in by someone who still thinks the best music to come out is around the corner, new, fresh, and different, not something that was done 20 years ago. Great review, and am going to see what you have reviewed in the past. Thanks.

  2. Ken West says:

    I’m going to have to get the new one…a great band at a time when there really aren’t that many around. I heard a Jeff Tweedy cover that absolutely knocked me out when I heard it on XM recently-Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate, just a wonderful version of a classic, give it a listen.

    How was Nick Lowe? I just gave Labour of Lust a spin a couple of weeks ago (on vinyl, of course!), a masterpiece of power pop-I’m a big fan of Lowe and his Rockpile collaborator Dave Edmunds.

    • John says:

      Nick was awesome. Just him, his voice and an acoustic guitar. Unadorned and very powerful! I’ve heard the Tweedy cover of Simple Twist of Fate. Jeff is just such a great musician. He could do what ever he wants. Have you heard the “Mermaid Boulevard” CD’s that Wilco did with Billy Bragg? They are all songs that were written to unreleased poems by Woody Guthrie. Really fantastic stuff.

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