Wilco last night at one of my favorite venues – the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara – I was struck by a few thoughts simulateneously.
1) It’s rare you get to “grow up” with a band — that they start making great music during your formative years of being a music fan and continue making great music as you journey through adulthood.
Wilco’s first album “AM” came out when I was a freshman in college and I remember the first time I heard it. I was hanging out with a guy who used to alternate sips of Jolt cola and Mickeys malt liquor. Not the type of guy you would think would be listening to alt-country. But when he played it for me, I knew it was something special — “Box Full of Letters” being the main indication.
One of my favorite things about last night’s show is not just that they played that song, but that the band seemed to be having a blast on stage together. Jeff was chatty with the crowd and seemed in great spirits.
As someone who has followed the band throughout their career –and who has changed so much in my own life over all this time — I’m so glad to see Jeff happy. It seems musical genius tends to be accompanied by a lot of dysfunction (and drugs) and he seems to have made it over that mountain and I can’t help feeling some personal joy as if he is someone I know. We’ve been together over 15 years after all.
2) Wilco is one of my favorite bands. Picking favorites is always hard but if someone asked me to select my favorite bands on the spot, I’m not sure Wilco would have made the list. But now they do. As most of their live shows are, last night was a career retrospective — and it really blows your mind when you hear the breadth of their catalogue in one evening. Melodic beauty (“I’m The Man Who Loves You” will always be my favorite), somber and sweet, fierce guitar and the cacophony of noise they play around with. They are truly a band that keeps growing and pushing boundaries and I’m with them all the way.
Wilco probably won’t win the Grammy tomorrow night, but they deserve to. Wilco happens to be on the same album cycle as the Foo Fighters, which normally wouldn’t affect them one bit, except that when it comes to nominations in the rock category, they end up against one of the biggest, most successful pure rock bands out there. Wilco is still a bit country and a bit experimental for some, so I think it’s a tough category. But “The Whole Love” is definitely deserving. “Dawned on Me” is one of their best songs ever.
Since the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” is awarded before the broadcast, Jeff jokingly decided to give part of his “acceptance speech” last night. Who did he thank? His crew. The hardest working crew around, according to Jeff. I’m sure winning a Grammy would be nice but the band seems to know their worth without the acknowledgement and doesn’t take their fans, their crew or anyone else for granted.
That’s why I’m proud to be a Wilco fan. For life.
(and guess what, Wilco loves me back.)