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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIf there's any artistic and business model to follow in a band, it's unquestionably Wilco, one of Chicago's most prized treasures these days that's steadily ascended from an act with strictly underground appreciation to achieving a full-blown mainstream conquest. All the while, the Jeff Tweedy-led troupe's continued to evolve, surprise and endear, never selling out in the process and always making sure to return to its Windy City roots at least once a year.
These days the party's much bigger of course, so much so that the frequent club packers were forced to a two night stand at a sizable arena. Unfortunately, the UIC Pavilion isn't exactly intimate compared to the group's relatively recent residency at the Riviera Theatre, but like the group's development thus far, members passed this latest test of translation with flying colors.
In order to make up for the distance between the completely legit rock n' roll light show of mammoth proportions with those in the venue's upper bowels, the band stuck to the more aggressive side of its catalogue across an extremely generous two and a half hour affair. Robust alternative country selections and distortion-drenched indie rock overpowered the occasional soft-spoken balladry, but with a group of musicians this tight and talented, it really didn't matter what was on the set list.
With the cheekily titled Wilco (the album) to plug, there was obviously plenty of tunes on the docket from that new Nonesuch batch. "Wilco (the song)" greeted the sold out audience with gritty guitars and foot stomping bravado, that further manifested itself throughout the electrifying "A Shot In the Arm," the growling "Bull Black Nova" and the vibrant jam "You Are My Face." The relatively reclusive Tweedy truly purged any lingering demons come the somber "Misunderstood," which later morphed into joyous celebration come "Sonny Feeling."
Though longtime fans may find it an odd that the band now has "hits," Wilco also pleased the radio portion of its fan base. "You Never Know" and "Heavy Metal Drummer" proved to be the group's most memorable and catchy tunes to date, while "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" will be forever tied to the band's revealing biopic of the same name. Considering all the group's growing pains and line-up changes, it's nothing short of miraculous to find the fellas still firing on all cylinders and at a creative peak fifteen years into its career. And if the past growth pattern is any indication of Wilco's longevity pattern, chances are there's only more ingenuity and intrigue lurking around the corner.
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