photo: Bill Shaw
I have been listening to Wilco, and Jeff Tweedy’s previous band Uncle Tupelo for almost thirty years. When I knew they were playing Belfast I felt that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had to say that I’d seen Jeff Tweedy. He is that influential.
My problem was that my Wilco-mania peaked with Hotel Yankee Foxtrot twenty years ago. When a friend approached me in the Mandela Hall before the gig and said that he had first heard Wilco on my radio show I felt a little bit cool but I felt very uncool about what I knew in detail about their last number of records.
Well the good thing about Wilco is that you do not need to be au fait with their catalogue to appreciate their spectacular music. The awesome sound in the new Mandela Hall also helps.
When Uncut suggests these guys are the “greatest America band” it is hard to argue. Early on there were two songs from last year’s Cruel Country, a double album of sprawling songs that focus on the country for America in Wilco’s more gentle groove of country.
It is almost Neil Young in that soon we have moved on to some of the most lengthy of guitar solos. Exquisite. Virtuoso. Near Freebird length guitar breaks. Soaring and sensationally good.
Neil Young is the man who released Harvest Moon straight after Ragged Glory. Tweedy must be influenced but Tweedy has a near pop sensibility layered in. My mate Paul turned to me after Hummingbird and said, “There’s a bit of John Lennon in there.” It was like 1967.
The band cover their 30 years. Box Full Of Letters had me reading my No Depression magazine as I listened in the mid 90s.
I Am Trying To Break Tour Heart and I was there at the millennium’s turn as they started pushing the experimental envelope. T
Then California Stars surprised me into remembering Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg.
Evicted gave us clues to Cousin that is released later in the month and in the encore they bounced us from the current Cruel Country on Falling Apart (Right Now) and back to Outtasite (Out Of Mind).
It was all utterly fabulous, making me regret my cursory listens in recent years and sending me back to rediscover the old Wilco that I loved so much. Cruel Country arrived on vinyl the next day and needs absorbing. Cousin is to come. There’s even a memoir to be read.