Wilco, Purling Hiss
“I think we’re still probably most comfortable in a nice-sized club or small theater. But we’ve gotten to where we can really adapt to the bigger stages and we can expand our production in ways that make for a good show. And that’s not easy. We looked at it as a challenge for a long time.”
Tweedy is quick to point out that Wilco remains a musical outfit first and foremost. “Well, we don’t stand up and throw shapes (strike poses) at the audience. We still predominantly let the music do the talking. But I think the songs you choose to present is obviously going to make a difference,” he says.
“There are some songs that just aren’t ever going to reach past the 10th row. But we’re fortunate to have a ton of material, and we can draw upon the stuff that’s a little bit bigger and reaches a little bit further out to the nether regions of a large audience. It’s like Neil Young said: ‘You gotta be singing like you’re singing to the last person in the last row.’ I don’t think that’s a bad way to look at it.”
Wilco’s recent set lists have found them bunching tracks from specific albums. The group’s now-longstanding lineup — which includes bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche, guitarist Nels Cline and multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen — is an especially versatile unit, capable of convincingly mustering tunes stretching the band’s entire catalog, from 1995’s debut, to last year’s
“Some songs we play better than we’ve ever been able to play. This band is much more finely tuned to all the different material,” Tweedy says. “We can play anything off of any record, pretty much. It might not be perfect, but we’ll try it.”
Concerts on the group’s current Southern swing have included multiple encores filled with earlier material, especially songs off 1996’s double- disc triumph,
which is a boon to the group’s longtime fans.
“There are definitely songs that I’ve come to appreciate more over time. At one point, I really wanted to outgrow them,” Tweedy says. “And I think Wilco did outgrow them. But now it’s kind of nice to play them. I recognize the fact that there are people coming who are excited to hear songs that have been a part of their lives for a long time.
“That’s not to say you shouldn’t force people to listen to the stuff you’re most excited about, too. I think you should be squarely planted looking forward,” he says.
“But to be in a position of having something that people want from you that you can give them is a nice thing. I don’t feel like it’s pandering at all. I think it’s acknowledging and honoring the fact that all music is a collaboration with the listener. That’s certainly the way we feel about it.”