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Sunday April 20th 2014

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To Wilco or Not to Wilco

By Michael Osley

What do you get when you mix Bob Dylan, The Band, Sonic Youth, The Rolling Stones, Stealers Wheel, Television, Big Star, Bill Fay, Neil Young and Hank Williams Sr. in a pot? The answer is – Wilco. Arguably, one of the greatest American rock bands still on tour.

Founded in 1994, Wilco is an experimental/ alternative/ country/ roots rock/ Americana/ pop band formed by lead singer, Jeff Tweedy. Hailing from Chicago, Wilco have proven, decade after decade, that change can do you good.

Tweedy, along with bassist John Strait, are the only original members left in the band, but don’t let that fool you, this current lineup might just be the best yet. Since early 2004, the other current members include guitarist, Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. The new members of the band provide a sonic layer and captivation that can only be understood by seeing it live.  
The way this band blends the sounds of folk, alternative, classic rock, noise rock and experimental are captivating.  They are not one of those bands that insist on making you clap with them or do some special dance. Tweedy is a very sarcastic, and sort of a crotchety front man, but in a good way. You would think that after decades of playing music, he would be more comfortable in front of a crowd (Tweedy was in Uncle Tupelo from 1987-1994), but at each show, he blesses the crowd with awkward banter that is fun to watch.

They are currently on tour in support of their eighth studio album, “The Whole Love,” which was released September 2011.  The direction of their new album is more of a return to their sonic and experimental tendencies, such as in 2002’s, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” while still providing a melodic landscape that they have continued to give on 2007’s, “Sky Blue Sky.” One interesting thing about Wilco is that they are not afraid to play old material.  Each show is like a journey through the expansive catalog that Wilco has to offer.  

They are scheduled on Friday right before Jack White and just about the time the sun is going down. This will make for an amazing time of day to see Wilco, being on the beach. If you are not considering seeing Wilco because you are a big Umphrey’s McGee fan, do yourself a favor and split your time between both bands. Be warned though, if you start out at the Wilco show it will be hard to leave.

WILCO
Friday 7:30-9 p.m., Chevrolet Stage