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Wednesday, March 16, 2005 was *the* day to be in Paris. World class weather trumps world class museums (unless you compromise somehow by going to a museum like Centre Pompidou, which makes the outside more accessible while browsing Klee). Dining outside on tartines, finishing a meal off with a nutella crepe, and shopping in the random papeteries truly make Paris as romantic as it seems--almost enough to make you forget about the occasional street stench. But even better is capping it off with an evening with Wilco in Montmartre.
And maybe for Wilco it was the weather...or being in Paris...or having of slew of new songs with chaotic endings...or having recently won a grammy for their most recent album, A Ghost is Born, which made their performance that night memorably energetic for a band more well known for their mellow buzz.
Elysee Montmartre couldn't have been a more appropriate venue: the old, almost crumbly exterior, large, open salon, and moldings overhead are almost a reflection of Wilco's sometimes raw sound, Tweedy's crumbly voice, and the small (yet ever-growing) space they occupy in the music world in which they'll remain a classic.
Tweedy keeps the chat short, yet still manages to engage the audience participation both actively and passively. Chorus participation on "Jesus etc." was a complete success when you think about the French and Americans collaborating on the line, "Our love/ Our love/ Our love, is all we have." And I'll be damned if he isn't looking every crowd member in the eye at one point or another. Passively, this was by far the most attentive audience I had ever seen at a concert--let alone one where everyone is standing (and I'm still trying to figure out how the hell the French, making up a large chunk of the audience, know of Wilco)--and it's not surprising considering he seems like one of the few artists who knows what fans want: access to music. A large number of Wilco's fans will admit in fan forums such as Via Chicago that they've never purchased an album--participants who subscribe to the opinion of file sharing more as knowledge sharing. And knowledge should be free and accessible to the public.
Wired's Lawrence Lessig recently interviewed Tweedy in the February 2005 issue:
"Music," he explained, "is different" from other intellectual property. Not Karl Marx different - this isn't latent communism. But neither is it just "a piece of plastic or a loaf of bread." The artist controls just part of the music-making process; the audience adds the rest. Fans' imagination makes it real. Their participation makes it live. "We are just troubadours," Tweedy told me. "The audience is our collaborator. We should be encouraging their collaboration, not treating them like thieves."
And you can't help but feel the guy believes in what he says when he goes as far as stopping a song to tell a security guard to get lost instead of pestering fans who manage to get their camera into the venue (I'm still waiting for those people to post their photos somewhere too!).
Admittedly I've never been a huge fan of the alt-country aspect of them...I need a little more mandolin for that genre. But I feel inclined to say something cliche like, "Wilco has truly come into their own," whatever that means or that "They've really hit the mark," but as a longtime fan, myself, I feel like that happened ten years ago with songs like "I Must be High," off of A.M., "Misunderstood," "Red-eyed and Blue," and "Sunken Treasure," on Being There in '96 and then entirely fantastic albums since Summerteeth. The selfish part of me mourns their increasing popularity (Gasp! Might they become mainstream?!) but then again, this is the quality of music that should be out there, full force. Tweedy is wrong: the best bands do get signed.
Their set list included:
Muzzle of Bees, At Least that's What You Said, Hell is Chrome, Hummingbird, Wishful Thinking, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Company At My Back, Jesus etc., Handshake Drugs, Shot In the Arm, I'm the Man Who Loves You, Theologians, Ashes, War on War, Poor Places, Reservations, Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Let's Drop the Big One (Randy Newman Song), Late Greats
I'm a Wheel, Kingpin, Remember the Mountain Bed, Heavy Metal Drummer, Why Can't All Be Brothers
Other concert reviews: Ani Difranco & Andrew Bird and Death Cab for Cutie