When Tanglewood presents non-classical music, which isn’t often, they go right for the top: two sold-out shows last month by singer-songwriter James Taylor and alt-country/alt-rock giants Wilco next Tuesday.
Wilco is worth the trip; it’s the closest venue they’ll play this time around. And, it could be worse: to catch solo shows next month by Wilco leader, singer and main songwriter Jeff Tweedy, you’d have to fly to Spain.
At Saratoga Winners in June 1997, Wilco played mainly “Being There” songs. At the Union College Memorial Chapel in April 2002 (one of my top shows of that year), they concentrated on “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” And Tweedy mixed things up in his solo show at The Egg in November 2005 when drummer Glenn Kotche opened and played on Tweedy’s encores. They’ll likely play many tunes from their Grammy-nominated “Sky Blue Sky” album on Tuesday at Tanglewood, although they have been recording new material recently and may be road-testing fresh tunes for an album due next spring.
Their side-projects offer additional song choices beyond their own six studio albums, including Tweedy’s all-star groups Golden Smog (with ex-Jayhawks Gary Louris, Kraig Johnson and Marc Perlman) and current Soul Asylum guitarist Dan Murphy and many others; and Loose Fur (Tweedy, Kotche and Jim O’Rourke), plus his solo work.
Tweedy’s band mates have also been busy making non-Wilco music. Kotche’s “Mobile” solo album combines jazz and world-beat explorations, and guitarist Nels Cline has literally hundreds of tunes from his many albums as a sideman or on his own projects with a guitar trio and with the Nels Cline Singers — “Draw Breath” is the latest and most accomplished.
Wilco has sometimes been dubbed America’s Radiohead for their chameleon-like sonic experiments, though some would claim the comparison should go in the other direction, and Tweedy has denied its validity altogether. After the noisy, forward-looking “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” Wilco stabilized their sound on “Sky Blue Sky,” recalling their earlier and more country-based style.
But who knows where they’ll move on their next album? One clue: they’ve been touring with a horn section, the Total Pros Horns, and recent setlists lean heavily on the unarguably superb but very different “Sky Blue Sky” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” albums.
One dependable element: The current crew has been stable since 2004 and may be the best Wilco performing unit ever. Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt have been aboard since 1994 when Uncle Tupelo split into Wilco and Son Volt. Kotche signed up in 2000, keyboardist Mikael Jorgenson came in two years later, and Cline — perhaps the band’s most valuable player — completed the lineup in 2004.
This particular Wilco crew hasn’t played here before, but their most recent Austin City Limits show attests to the strength and flexibility of the current edition of one of America’s greatest bands. In the show taped last year, Wilco played mainly “Sky Blue Sky” songs, really powerfully. (They also played Austin City Limits in the 1999/2000 and 2004/2005 seasons.) To hear more recent Wilco shows online, visit http://wilcoworld.net/roadcase.
And for additional Wilco insights and information, check out Sarah LaDuke’s interview with Jeff Tweedy that first aired on Monday on WAMC radio by visiting www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1332804§ionID=231.
Andrew Bird opens for Wilco, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $36 and $26. Phone 888-266-1200 or visit www.tanglewood.org.
Great Southern rock
Former Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts jams Southern rock on the Proctors main stage (432 State St., Schenectady) tonight, just 11 days before the Allmans return to Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Betts built his band Great Southern according to the Allman Brothers’ blueprint, and he has rejuvenated his career since his bitter departure from the band he co-founded and helped drive to the top.
Tickets are $32, $28, $24 and $20. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
Boone and B.B.
Schenectady bluesman George Boone, a tremendously talented guitarist and singer, lived one of his dreams last Saturday, opening with his band (bassist Raoul Bowman and drummer Mark McKay) for B.B. King at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, N.J. They earned a standing ovation and an encore from King’s 1,200 fans jamming the sold-out theater, and King brought Boone back for a curtain call at the end of the show.
A former Northeast Blues Society Colossal Contenders winner who represented the society at the Memphis International Blues Challenge several years ago, Boone sold a record number of his CDs, “Stranger in My Hometown,” at last Saturday’s show with B.B. King.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosts two nights of popular rock bands this week: O.A.R. (. . . Of A Revolution) and Ozomatli represent the jam-band end of the spectrum on Sunday, and Maroon 5, Counting Crows and Sara Barielles rock the pop on Tuesday. Show time for O.A.R. and Ozomatli is 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $35, lawn $20. Show time for Maroon 5, Counting Crows and Sara Barielles is 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Phone order tickets at 587-3330 or 476-1000 (Ticketmaster), or visit www.livenation.com or www.ticketmaster.com.