Mark Lewis, Arcurrent
February 9, 2012
For close to two hours, Wilco sonically mesmerized the extremely diverse crowd of fans whose ages ranged from their late teens to 20s, 30s, and 40-somethings (I was seated next to that man who hawks hot dogs at Yankee Stadium for a living).
Wilco, whose named is derived from a combination of the saying “willing to comply,” formed in 1994 after the break up of alt-country group Uncle Tupelo. Wilco is a band of six with only two original members, lead singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist Jeff Stirratt, who have remained since the group’s inception. The band’s 25-song set drew largely from their latest release, 2011’s “The Whole Love.” The album is nominated for a 2012 Grammy for best rock album alongside Jeff Beck, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers and music’s most straightforward teeth-gnashing rock band Foo Fighters. A win (to be determined at the Feb. 12 ceremony at the Staples Center) would be the band’s third Grammy – impressive for a 17-year-old indie band with a nine-album catalogue.
Wilco played the Mondavi Center at U.C. Davis on Feb. 1 exhaling a strong hit of live music onto a capacity audience of 1,800 people. Wilco’s powerhouse live performance was perhaps as fascinating as it was hard to define. Opening with “One Sunday Morning” made me instantly think I had the band’s musical mystique figured out – Tweedy is a heterogeneous mix of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Wrong! Wilco’s music is stylistically as diverse as any band out there with its strong, enlightened lyrics set to countless musical genres including country, ‘60s-era rock, jazz and even pop.
The bell intro to “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart” from their most commercially popular album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is a perfect example of Wilco’s rock experimentalism. Performed live, it was awe-inspiring. The pedigree of Wilco’s musicianship really puts them into a category of their own. Performing “Side With The Seeds” and “Dawned On Me” as rear projectors blasted the stage with a multi-colored, hypnotic light show lent a visual credence to the abnormally stationary band.