Wilco: What They Once Were Isn't What They Want To Be Anymore

It's come to this - Wilco is now a band that inspires mid-song clapping after an especially impressive guitar solo. This isn't the most terrible thing in the world. Nels Cline is a world-class guitarist and his skills are worth applauding. But when that becomes the highlight of just about every song by a band that was responsible for some of the best, beer-soaked shows I've ever seen, it's a bit disappointing.

This isn't to say that Wilco isn't worth seeing anymore. It's just that Jeff Tweedy may have assembled a band that is simply too good. It's a well-oiled machine; there's no spontaneity to anything that happens on stage. Even without their glorious past to make the current version seem lackluster, new songs like "Walken" and "Hate It Here" are simply boring on every level, musically and lyrically.

Jeff Tweedy still has a fantastically raspy voice and the stoned shuffle of "Handshake Drugs" was the best single performance of any song I've seen today. And it's not like I just want to hear a set of oldies. "Monday" and "Outta Site (Outta Mind)" were great to hear, but it seemed like band was running through the motions a bit, understandable since the songs are 12 years old and only Tweedy and bassist John Stirrat were in the band when those songs were written.

Set closer "Hoodoo Voodoo" was a standout for a simple reason - it was fun. Wilco's still a very good band. They just aren't that much fun anymore. And that's too bad.

-- David Malitz

By David Malitz |  August 9, 2008; 8:32 PM ET Virgin Festival
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I went into Wilco knowing nothing about them.

Did they have sound problems? I couldn't believe that some of the ah-hu - "noise" I heard was a part of their style. It seemed like the sound didn't stop several times after it ought to have. Since I don't know much about the band I wasn't sure if that's just the way they were.

Posted by: RoseG | August 10, 2008 8:06 AM

I've been saying this for years much to my friends' annoyance.

You are now my favorite writer.

Dean Keaton

Posted by: Keaton | August 11, 2008 2:02 AM

"It's just that Jeff Tweedy may have assembled a band that is simply too good."

Dude, seriously, what are you talking about? Maybe the reason you don't think Wilco is that much fun to see anymore is that they've basically been playing the same set, comprised of the hits from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born, and now Sky Blue Sky, for damn near five years now. Don't make up some ridiculous reason that the band is too good, whatever that means. They're a well-oiled machine because they keep playing the same damn songs. Do I really need to hear Heavy Metal Drummer live ever again? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that the band can't still rock out and shred with the best of them. I wasn't there this weekend, but maybe it just wasn't their best performance.

Posted by: Adam | August 11, 2008 12:16 PM

Wilco was among the best acts of the day on Saturday along with Sharon Jones and Jack Johnson. Gogol Bordello was fun, and Foos rocked even though David Grohl's banter is like that of a fifth-grader.

Posted by: Me C | August 11, 2008 6:54 PM

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