Wilco @ The Wiltern, 6/23/09
It's been exactly one generation since Wilco first formed from the ashes of alt-country mavens Uncle Tupelo. Fifteen years and seven albums later, through an often tumultuous and at times heartbreaking run, it seems Wilco has finally learned to relax. Gone is the tortured soul of lead singer Jeff Tweedy, who has been forced to overcome a well documented problem with addiction and a rocky relationship with recently deceased Jay Bennett - a problematic relationship chronicled in the DVD I am Trying to Break Your Heart .
Gone are the days when Wilco would pilfer through musicians every couple of years with an array of eclectic albums that substantiated such turnover. With a steady group of universally talented musicians, and a crop of three sterling albums in five years, Tweedy and company have now found peace in perpetuity.
Which is not to say Wilco has any plans of slowing down. In the midst of a global tour for their new album, Wilco (The Album), the Chicago/L.A. sextet stopped by Southern California last week to showcase their catalog and Tweedy's humorous flair.
Through a nearly two-hour Wiltern set last week, in which they played two dozen songs from almost every album they've made, Wilco exemplified why their place in musical history is secure. Their set list showcased the strengths of every band member and featured plenty from their early days, the middle ages and a recent run of folk/rock experimentation. In short, there was something for everyone, which was quite necessary given the eclectic crowd of teenage listeners, twenty-something fans and older lovers of Wilco who might have been around since the Summerteeth days. Wilco immediately sent a nod in their direction by opening with the beautiful and chaotic Via Chicago, a slow starting ballad that gives way to a mad conflagration of percussion in which Glenn Kotche wails away halfway through the number while Tweedy calmly sings of his hometown.