Wilco all over and out anytime
EFF Tweedy chuckles when it is suggested his band has reached some elder statesmen milestone courtesy of the title of their current tour.
‘‘Oh yeah, An Evening With Wilco – we generally play pretty long shows, so it probably should be A Decade with Wilco,’’ Tweedy says.
Since forming in 1994 and consolidating as the current line-up a decade later, Wilco have challenged and delighted the discerning music fan with their genre-hopping experimentation. They became the poster band for the dysfunctional decline of the major label system when one imprint of Warner Music refused to release their breakthrough album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for it to be picked up by another of the multinational’s subsidiaries.
Since then, the band’s recorded output has won them Grammys while their gigs further their legend. As Tweedy says, they will play anywhere, any time and average at least 150 shows a year. On their current Australian tour, their itinerary stretches from the Easter run of blues festivals to the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Hamer Hall.
‘‘We will play a folk festival one day and in a little club somewhere the next – we’re quite good at fitting in,’’ Tweedy says.
‘‘We’ve had to grow into the bigger venues and stages and we have become really good at that over the years.’’
Tweedy agrees that maintaining their current-line-up for almost a decade is a factor in Wilco’s on-stage alchemy.
Like all good gigs, the musical conversation the band members have during a show appears effortless and intuitive rather than drilled in their Chicago rehearsal room. It could also be that John Stirratt, Nels Cline, Glenn Kotche, Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen are fine musicians.
‘‘It’s wonderful to be able to get from point A to B a lot faster,’’ Tweedy says of their on-stage communication.
‘‘Music is something people tend to talk about and musicians talk about a lot when they don’t know each other very well.
‘‘A band like Wilco, who have been doing it together long enough, will have an understanding of certain things that have to be experienced and not talked about.’’
Tweedy has also become in-demand as a producer since helming the award-winning album You Are Not Alone by famed r ’n’ b and gospel singer Mavis Staples and is wrapping up her next record.
Tweedy thought it was an achievement just to meet Staples; you can
Wilco (above) and Mavis Staples (left) hear just how chuffed he is he got to work with her and induct her into the family.
‘‘Mavis lives here in Chicago, so that worked out well.’’
He says Staples, a force of nature, taught him how to be himself. ‘‘It’s really great to watch someone like Mavis Staples work and absorb a certain amount of that spirit or whatever you want to call it,’’ he says.
The good news for Wilco fans is there will be another record from the band, to follow-up 2011’s The Whole Love.
‘‘We’ve started chugging away. I don’t know but I doubt if you’ll hear anything new on the Australian shows because in the past, when we have done songs live before we have had a chance to finish them in the studio, they can be really hard to record because you are missing that energy from the audience.’’
Wilco play the Byron Bay Bluesfest on Saturday and Easter Monday. The Blind Boys of Alabama and Mavis Staples play The Tivoli, in Brisbane, tonight. Staples plays Bluesfest on Sunday and Monday.