here is a reason why bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Angels and Airwaves, Blink-182, and My Chemical Romance are suddenly getting back together. It's because our generation is desperately seeking an authentic band to grow old with, to share sorrow with and to celebrate life with, a band like Wilco. From sleeping on a bed of California stars, to falling in love with the drummer, to setting the kids on fire, Wilco has been growing up with us for the last 25 years. Although there have been some personnel variations throughout Wilco's history, the distinct phases of Wilco can always be connected by the tender, mushy center that is Jeff Tweedy. Wilco was started by Tweedy in 1994 because he needed an outlet for a gushing wave of creativity that could not be harnessed by his former band Uncle Tupelo. Tweedy's intense journey as a musician brought him to the highest precipices of musical experimentation that would infuse elements of punk-rock, pop and alt-country while also venturing through the somber lows of drug addiction and mental distress. It is Tweedy's incredibly prolific nature (Wilco has released 11 albums and Tweedy has released four solo albums) that allows his fans to grow with him, to join his journey, and further understand their lives through the lens of his meta-analytical lyrics.
Upon entering the legendary Chicago Theatre to see the third night of Wilco's 2019 Winterlude, which featured four nights of Tweedy and the gang, I was excited to see how this infamous group would sound in person. The night began with a short acoustic set from Sharon Van Etten who shared a few songs from her vast catalog including an epic performance of 'Seventeen'. Van Etten's powerful voice and honest lyrics served as the perfect segue for Wilco.
As Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirrat, guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche approached the stage everyone in the massive theater stood up from their seats to fully experience the show. Large shouts were hurled across the mostly silent venue to relay some heartfelt sentiments to the Wilco crew and they received them with warmth. Seeing Wilco live is such an exciting phenomenon based on the extensive amount of incredible songs that Tweedy has in his repertoire, you just never know what he's going to play. They began with an ode to the Windy City, 'Via Chicago' that moved into 'I'm Right' from the 2011 album 'The Whole Love'. Tweedy then exhibited his soft side as he began a beautiful rendition of 'How To Fight Loneliness'. This is the mass appeal of Tweedy and Wilco, their ability to venture behind the curtains of our emotions and tinker around until we find where the screws are loose.
Wilco is able to reach into our souls and pull our heartstrings with sweet songs like this while quickly transitioning to more hedonistic, upbeat numbers like 'Random Name Generator'. This spectrum of sound that bridges the gap between a somber catharsis and joyful celebration is the area that Wilco occupies. The fans could not be more elated as tracks like 'Impossible Germany', 'Jesus Etc', and 'Everyone Hides' were played in between long stretches of psychedelic instrumentals. Despite having a plethora of tracks to play, it was refreshing to see the band expand a shorter song into a proper jam with Nels Cline guitar solos and improvisation from Glenn Kotche. Before the set ended Van Etten sang a beautiful duet with Tweedy and it was difficult to leave the venue without a smile on your face. Be sure to catch Wilco as they tour North America in 2020!