There are two main reasons why Wilco may be the best live band today.
One, their catalog is extensive – and impressive. Songs from their 1995 debut album A.M. sound just as fresh as the material from their latest, 2018’s Ode to Joy.
Secondly, each member of the group is practically virtuosic at their respective instruments. Lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy leads the reigns, of course, but the entire band behind him are accomplished musicians and artists in their own right.
Here are five essential live Wilco songs to get you excited for their show on Tuesday, March 10, at the DECC Symphony Hall in Duluth.
“We Were Lucky”
From the 2019 album Ode to Joy
Somewhat surprisingly, the downbeat songs from Ode to Joy work well live. It isn’t easy to bring slower songs to life, but Wilco does it with ease, largely because they are able to collectively fill the spaces with energy and nuance. “We Were Lucky” is an extreme example: the subtle acoustic track is turned into a heavy stomper live, led by the incredible drumming of Glen Kotche.
From the 2007 album Sky Blue Sky
Currently, “Impossible Germany” is the most popular live Wilco track, and for good reason. The musicality of the band is pushed front and center, especially the triple guitar attack of Jeff Tweedy, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone. Their extended jams on this one are always transcendent.
“I’m the Man Who Loves You”
From the 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
It’s always coolest when Wilco follows fun radio hit “Heavy Metal Drummer” with “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” just like on their seminal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The biting slide guitar that opens the song sounds perfect after the wall of noise that ends “Drummer.” This one might not have been a hit, but it should have been.
From the 1998 album Mermaid Avenue
In the late ‘90s, Wilco teamed up with English folk singer Billy Bragg to record over two albums worth of Woody Guthrie songs. The catch? They were all lyrics that the folk legend had never put to music, leaving that to Bragg and Wilco. The results were stunning, especially this tender track, one of the most beloved in Wilco’s catalog.
“Box Full of Letters”
From the 1995 album A.M.
Considering that Wilco have taken so many twists and turns in their long career, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they began from the remnants of alt.country pioneers Uncle Tupleo. They (sadly) don’t play many Tupelo songs anymore, but they still dig out “Box Full of Letters” from their 1995 debut, which has a similar feel to Tweedy’s first band.
Be sure to catch Wilco at the DECC Symphony Hall in Duluth on Tuesday, March 10th.