The word “change” stands for a lot of things. It can refer to the slightest alteration, or a complete self-transformation. For the sake of clarity, when the word is looked up in a dictionary, it may be best accompanied by a picture of the band Wilco.
Wilco, who will be playing at Tampa Theatre Saturday, has epitomized change from the very start. The band itself was formed from the rubble of the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, arguably the seminal band of the alt-country, Americana musical genre. After his career with Tupelo, co-lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy parted ways with his counterpart, Jay Farrar (who later formed Son Volt). Tweedy didn’t leave the band alone, though.
Ken Coomer (drums), John Stirratt (bass) and Max Johnston (banjo, mandolin) decided to stay with Tweedy and form a new band, Wilco. After adding guitarist Jay Bennett, Wilco released A.M. in 1995, an album that picked up where the country-tinged Tupelo had left off. Then the proverbial lightbulb went on.
Over the next four years Tweedy’s songwriting, and overall creative direction, steered farther away from alt/country and toward the world of pop innovation. Wilco’s music would develop into a fusion of country, R&B, rock and jazz during the course of the two critically-acclaimed albums, Being There and Summer Teeth. The band’s inventive song production was matched only by the pace of its personnel changes.
By the time Wilco had finished recording their latest album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in 2001, the band subtracted Johnston and Bennett and added a new drummer (Glenn Kotche) and a new “jack-of-all-trades” instrumentalist (Leroy Bach).
The recording process for the album was quite complicated. At first, Warner Brothers, who paid for studio time, supported the album. Then the band and the label disagreed on the non-mainstream content of the final product, which led to the termination of Wilco’s record contract. So the band, with a paid-for album in hand, found a new label, Nonesuch, who signed them and put the record out. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch all that, the entire ordeal was documented in the terrific 2002 film, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
Fortunately for the band and their new label, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot turned out to be one of the best albums of 2002. It was acclaimed by many in the music industry, critics across the globe and the band’s fans alike. Maybe Warner Brothers should stick to cartoons.
Wilco celebrated by taking the new album out on the road at the end of 2001 for their first tour together in almost two years. The tour brings the band to Florida for the first time in almost four years, and Saturday’s show marks the first time they will ever perform in Tampa.
Tweedy and his band have come a long way in eight years. On Nov. 2 they come to Tampa to display how change has brought them to the pinnacle of musical creation.
Contact Nick Margiasso at email@example.com