Sold-out show right on for nearly-mythical Wilco

    Wilco are a rock critic’s wet dream: the type of band-in-a-thousand that epitomizes for its apostles why rock ’n’ roll is still exciting, why songwriting still matters and why the suits will eventually lose the war for pop music. In short, lest you’ve been living in the absence of such characters, the type of band that made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

    Courtesy of http://www.wilcoworld.net

    Yet for all the ink spilled in support of this 2002 watershed and its comparably praised follow-ups — including excellent side projects with Loose Fur and the Minus 5, a feature-length documentary, free fan-friendly EPs, a coffee table book and 2004’s climactic A Ghost Is Born,Wilco remain, to the great delight of their enthusiasts, the same hardworking travelin’ band they were during frontman Jeff Tweedy’s oft-referenced alt-country days. Such diligence-cum-derivativeness-cum-respect for the art and its fans has, of course, only added to this unwitting band’s legend quotient — which even those who bailed from the band’s bandwagon long ago are hard pressed to argue Wilco don’t deserve.

    Some might trace this sentiment back to 1990, the year Tweedy’s seminal alt-country band Uncle Tupelo released the genre-refining No Depression. Others will reference Wilco’s track record of critical acclaim, giving the requisite nods to 1996’s Being There and 1999’s Summer Teeth. For most, however, the coup de grace was the band’s new-millennium triumph over AOL Time Warner, in which (long and super-hyped story short) Wilco refused to dumb down Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for Warner subsidiary label Reprise, bought the rights to the album from the label, streamed it free-of-charge on the Internet, sold it back to another Warner subsidiary — Nonesuch Records — and reaped the greatest critical and commercial success of their careers.

    Along the way, it should be noted, the band has come to represent for many no less than the future of digital music, not in terms of sound (although you’ll definitely get that when listening to some of the laptop sessions on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or A Ghost Is Born), but in terms of new methodology for connecting the artist and the audience. In practice, this means releasing records online months before their commercial debut and entrusting fans to do the right thing (buy it if you like it — if not, no harm, no foul); in theory, it means winning the praises of cultural critics like Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, with whom Tweedy recently sat on a panel to discuss “Who Owns Culture?”

    Naturally, such heroics might be construed as mere window dressing, were it not for the consistent intelligence behind Wilco’s music. Tweedy and his band have evolved in seemingly every way since their casinos-and-DUIs 1995 debut, A.M., yet Tweedy’s stammering lyrical chops and genre-bending songwriting remain the thread holding Wilco together — making set-list transitions from Being There screamer “Misunderstood” to the Woody Guthrie-penned “California Stars” to YHF fretboard-rambler “I’m the Man Who Loves You” sound nothing short of organic.

    Wilco will play a sold-out show in Price Center Ballroom on April 29.

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