The whole Wilco

FRIDAY, FEB. 3, 2012

Wilco last performed in Spokane in the summer of 2008 to a near-capacity crowd at the INB Performing Arts Center. (File)
Wilco last performed in Spokane in the summer of 2008 to a near-capacity crowd at the INB Performing Arts Center. (File)

Chicago-based rockers return to Spokane on Monday, armed with material from both the past and the present

For fans not familiar with Wilco’s latest record, “The Whole Love,” there’s still time to bone up. Because when the Chicago-based sextet lands at the INB Performing Arts Center on Monday, they’ll be playing most, if not all, of the album’s tracks.

Bass player John Stirratt said that’s definitely by design.

“We’re really trying to focus on the record,” he said in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles. “Especially with the last record, we didn’t really concentrate on those songs. We are on the road so much, you sometimes forget you’re promoting a record.”

Don’t expect a set list that mirrors “The Whole Love” track list, however.

“The material is nice and varied and it translates well to the stage,” he said. “(The show will) be heavy on the new record, but all over the place in other ways. Some deep cuts, with every album represented.”

Stirratt particularly enjoys playing some of the new rockers from the record, “I Might” and “Dawn on Me.”

“They sound like classic Wilco rock songs,” he said. “It’s always nice to have new rockers to play.”

The record has garnered glowing reviews since its release in September 2011, drawing favorable comparisons to Wilco’s breakthrough, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

Part of the success stems from some stability in Wilco’s membership. After years with a revolving door, Wilco founding members Jeff Tweedy and Stirratt seem to have settled on a lineup that works: Nels Cline (guitar), Glenn Kotche (drums), Pat Sansone (multi-instrumentalist) and Mikael Jorgensen (keyboards). Together, this lineup has created the past three Wilco records.

“I think I would love to see it stay this way forever,” Stirratt said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do anything else anytime soon. “I think the possibilities are unlimited with this lineup,” he added. “With this last record we really explored what we can do. I think the experimental possibilities are huge.” 

Experimentation is part of Wilco’s stock and trade. Even so, Stirratt said, that experimentation can be a trap.

“Especially from the more experimental side of the band – Nels, Glenn and Mike – there’s unlimited kind of weird sounds that can happen. Sometimes it’s hard to get everyone represented,” he said. “I think this last record … you really hear everyone’s personality.”

While few accuse Wilco of being repetitive, Stirratt said it would be easy for the band to keep recreating “Wilco” songs.

“There is a certain kind of Wilco song or sound that we can do to death in a lot of ways. You think, ‘Well, this is us, let’s just do that.’ Then there’s this idea of trying to push it and get out of that realm. And I think it’s been back and forth with that philosophy for the whole period of the band.”

For Stirratt and Tweedy, two decades of making music together has made for a solid musical relationship. The two played together in the pioneering alt-country band Uncle Tupelo before that group acrimoniously fell apart. They formed Wilco in 1994.

“With Jeff, we’ve been simpatico from the musical standpoint from the beginning. That’s what made us become friends,” Stirratt said. “It’s amazing to be able to play with someone that long. I don’t take it for granted. There’s this unspoken ease about the way I play bass with the way he plays guitar.”


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