Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates: Secret Talent

Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates
The Catacombs
December 8, 2012
San Francisco, CA

Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates:  Secret Talent      
Sometimes, in San Francisco, I get to feel cooler and hipper than I am.  The city is full of secrets: hidden stairways, alleyway restaurants with unbelievable food, quirky Victorian homes with Shangri-la backyard gardens, there are unexpected vistas around every street corner.  And there are hidden, basement clubs where the cool bands play for 30-40 hipsters in the know.  Last night’s ME&TU show was one of those nights where I happily stumbled across a hidden den of some of the city’s secret musical talent.

Approaching the Catacombs on Capp Street in the Mission makes you wonder if you are in the right place.  It looks like a regular Mission home.  Last night, a piece of paper that said “Unfortunates” was thankfully taped to the door to let me know that I was not lost.  Inside, the Combs feels very much like a converted garage space and there is also an upstairs apartment where people live.  I was told that it was once a recording studio for gospel music in the '60s and '70s and only opens for performances on rare occasions, like last night.

I’ve seen Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates perform almost half a dozen times in San Francisco but have not included them in a review because each performance has been completely different.  They seemed to be a work in progress, experimenting with new version of songs and playing with different musicians.  Previous shows tended to feature blues-flavored British folk music.  However, last night’s Unfortunates show was much more rocking and was probably their best performance yet.  The Unfortunates played a fantastic upbeat set of intelligent and literate songs.  In barroom banter, Matthew Edwards is frequently compared to Elvis Costello though this comparison was perhaps truer of his previous band, The Music Lovers.  The Music Lovers played some sharply written, fun songs that could easily fit into a set by the Attractions.  However, the rock version of the Unfortunates last night recalled one of my favorite 1970s post-punk bands, The Feelies and, to a lesser extent, the Velvet Underground – both bands that were ahead of their time. 

Opening for The Unfortunates was Sasha Bell, a Brooklyn transplant and former member of Essex Green.  Essex Green released some adventurous, atmospheric but well crafted pop albums from 1999 – 2006 in the Elliot Smith vein.  Sasha is a talented songwriter and played an enjoyable opening set of melodic, midtempo pop music.  She also did double-duty last night playing keyboards with the Unfortunates.  I also can’t neglect to mention another Unfortunates band-member Jefferson Marshall who is a supremely talented bass player.  His recruitment to the band was a sharp move by Edwards.  Jefferson helps take the band to another level.

This blog tends to limit reviews to more established acts at large venues but last night’s show by Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates, as well as Sasha Bell, demonstrate that the local music scene in SF is populated by exceptionally talented artists and musicians.  Although a larger audience would deprive me of the fun of going to hidden places like the Catacombs, there’s no doubt that their secret talents deserve wider attention.  

Photos by MT.

Angelique Kidjo: Class Act

Angelique Kidjo
Zellerbach Theater
Berkeley, CA
November 17, 2012

Angelique Kidjo: Class Act

There are few better ways to spend a rainy Saturday evening in Berkeley than to see Angelique Kidjo at Zellerbach Theater on the UC campus.  I have lived in Berkeley, CA for almost three years and have failed to properly take advantage of the Cal Performance series at Zellerbach.  Their acts are always of the highest quality and Angelique Kidjo was no exception.  Kidjo has won dozens and dozens of awards; she has been honored in every way by, well, basically, everyone.  She has performed with every major artist and been involved in advocating for many international relief organizations.  And in addition to having a fantastic, powerful voice that was warm and reassuring, AK is also a great performer.

A.Kidjo is a Benin born musician now located in New York and also announced that she is a recent US citizen!  While her music falls squarely in the world music category, blending elements of pop, reggae, blues and jazz with African beats, I think it is much more accessible to American audiences than many world artists that are often little more than tinny pop music in a non-English language.  Of course, the category of world music, inexplicably excludes American music, which is certainly a part of the world.  In any case, AK sings in French, English, Yoruba, Swahili and, at the Zellerbach, also in Hindi. 
What surprised me most about her performance was her determination for everyone in the audience to have a good time.   Almost midway through the performance, she jumped off stage and walked through the audience dancing and singing with everyone she came across.  Then, for the last three songs, she invited the audience on to the stage.  The downside to this invitation was that Angelique got buried in a sea of audience members and was no longer visible for the rest of the show until the encore.  I’m sure for the 60-70 people on stage, it was a thrilling experience, for those remaining in their seat, it was less so. 

Nevertheless, Kidjo’s stories of her African childhood and the life lessons she learned while on her way to becoming a world-recognized artist were still relatable for everyone’s daily struggles.  At times, she did talk for, perhaps, too long in between songs but when she was singing and the band was playing, everything was right.  Angelique is a force of nature and her performance is not one that will be forgotten easily or quickly.

Highlighted songs to check out (courtesy JL):  Malaika (Angel) (a Miriam Makeba song); Afirika (the song she sang while touring the audience); and Agolo.    

Gilberto Gil: Brazilian Music Ambassador

Gilberto Gil
Paramount Theater
Oakland, CA
October 25, 2012

Gilberto Gil:  Brazilian Music Ambassador

Contributing Senior Correspondent: Jana L.

There is little doubt that we will all be hearing a lot about Brazilian music in the coming years.  The next World Cup and summer Olympics will be held in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively.  And there is little doubt that Gilberto Gil will be at the forefront of musical ambassadors playing and explaining popular Brazilian music to the world.  Few Brazilian musicians have had a longer, more distinguished career than Gilberto Gil and few are as beloved.  In fact if there was any lull during his performance at the Paramount on October 25, it was when he was too intent to explain the origins of different types of Brazilian music.  As soon as the audience was dancing in the aisles, he felt compelled to stop the show for several minutes to explain ‘forro’ music.  However, Gil is an effective ambassador for the musical roots of the country he loves deeply.
Thursday night was the year anniversary of the Occupy Oakland movement and a small march of several hundred people was proceeding down Telegraph Ave in Oakland a block from the Paramount.  There were dozens of police in riot gear staging nearby which is an unsettling sight while on our way to a Tropicalia party.  But, it was all forgotten soon enough once inside the majestic Art Deco triumph that is the Paramount Theater.  I could do an entire blog entry on the stunning design of the Paramount Theater and all the naked art deco.
The Lobby of the Paramount Theater

Gilberto Gil’s performance was open, sincere and joyful and not just limited to his funky-cool street dancing.  His energy and joy for performing was clear, he didn’t seem satisfied unless everyone was dancing.  His younger bandmates seemed unable to keep up with GG’s bubbling energy.  He frequently reached out to the audience from the edge of the stage inviting his fans to join in the party.  At times, it seemed like he was trying to embrace the audience in a big hug.  There was also many expat Brazilians in the audience that became part of the show.  They danced in their seats and in the aisles and sang along with sometimes too much enthusiasm. 

His setlist was a blend of old and new but it was difficult to tell if he was singing a popular song from the 1960's or one he recorded a few days ago. Some of the rhythms were frenetic and the songs blended together when performed back to back. Although the emphasis was on his party tunes, his heartfelt voice sounded best during ballads.  One of the most popular songs was "Esperando Na Janela."  Another crowd favorite was "Ultimo Pau de Arara."  One of the highlights of the nights had to be GG’s excellent Bob Marley covers.  He played great reggae/samba blends of “Three Little Birds” and “No Woman No Cry.”   GG is an old-school performer that believes in giving his all in every performance and that’s what he did at the Paramount.  

Bob and Mark: Hound dog howling

Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler
Greek Theater
October 19, 2012
Berkeley, CA

The untold story of this blog is that the idea of a concert review blog began bubbling through the cobwebs of my addled brain after a friend asked me how was a recent concert I had attended by legend, icon, mythic hero Bob Dylan.  I sent her a short email summary of the show and she replied by saying that the review was poorly written and the reviewer understood nothing about the greatness of Bob Dylan.  Four years later and after over 75 (!) concert reviews, I think I’ve proven that I can consistently post poorly written reviews that understand nothing about the artist performing.  So, here's one more!
Mark Knopfler, former lead guitarist of Dire Straits, opened the concert on Friday night at the Greek Theater with a bland set of dazzling guitar work.  MK is one of the best guitarists in rock history but his music sounded rather dated on Friday night.  His opening set also highlighted a perennial dilemma for artists with extensive oeuvres.  Should they play songs that they enjoy, deep cuts that only direhard fans will appreciate, or should they stick to popular songs that they have played thousands of times and are sick of playing.  I think artists need to do a mix.  If they are sick of a popular song, they just need to suck it up!  Not to put too fine a point on it.  MK has had close to a dozen genuinely popular songs with Dire Straits and played none on Friday.  His final song was a smaller Dire Straits hit, “So Far Away From Me,” which, frankly is not enough.

Bob Dylan is an icon and a legend.  He is certainly the best songwriter in American history.  It’s difficult for me to say anything negative about Bob since his music is art and his lyrics are poetry.  He revolutionized popular music.  And he accomplished all this without having much a singing voice.  When young, his voice was nasally, creaking but warm and world-weary.  It invited you into the poetry of his songs and made you feel understood.  Now, his voice is a croaking bullfrog.  It was difficult at times to even identify the songs with his staccato, sing-songy rasping.  It was very difficult to listen to.  On the plus side, he didn't have to worry about singing in the right key.  Bob played Tangled Up in Blue, Highway 61 Revisited, Make You Feel My Love, Desolation Row.  A fantastic set list.  However, I will need to go home and listen to the recordings to remind myself how fantastic these songs are because they were not fantastic at the Greek on Friday night.

First Aid Kit: To Sweden and Beyond

First Aid Kit
October 17, 2012
San Francisco, CA

First Aid Kit: Naiveté of Youth

First Aid Kit is a folk duo comprised of two sisters, Johanna and Klara Soderberg, from Stockholm Sweden, aged 22 and 19.  Though, they look like they are about 18 and 15 years old.  They are part of the growing trend for musicians to kick-start their careers with viral video success.  First Aid Kit first garnered attention with a viral video of their cover of a Fleet Foxes song.  There was something very touching about the beautiful harmonies of two sisters singing in the woods together.  It seemed genuine, two sisters simply enjoying playing music and being with one another, and displayed real talent besides.   The sisters continued to post songs on Youtube, recorded an album, got more attention from indie music enthusiasts and now are on a world tour after releasing their second album.  The haphazard, dumb luck of having a viral video makes me a little uncomfortable about the growing frequency of this pattern of new music success.  But if Youtube is to be the new FM radio, so be it.  There are certainly worse ways to find new music.  
I also cannot deny the quality of musicianship and singing in First Aid Kit.  The insistence to harmonize their voices on every song is a bit tiresome as is their insistence on the poignancy of loss in their songs.  However, I remember being 19 when everything was new and profound.  And their performance at Fillmore was a nice reminder of that youthful enthusiasm.  But more importantly, their music, if not their stage presence, demonstrated maturity beyond their years and shows real promise.  They are a couple of sister to watch.

David Byrne and St. Vincent: Giant

David Byrne and St. Vincent
Orpheum Theater
October 15, 2012
San Francisco, CA

On his latest album and tour, David Byrne (nee Talking Heads) has teamed up with indie darling St. Vincent (nee Annie Clark).  The collaboration has divided the SF hipster subculture.  For young urban hipsters, the collaboration is a stab at relevance by DB, a once great, faded musical icon and pop star; and for aging suburban hipsters, it is an attempt by promising, neophyte SV to gain greater exposure.  But for an aging music enthusiast and concert reviewer, it was all good fun. 

DB was last seen on MV&R over three years ago when he brought down the house at the Greek with one of the best shows in recent years in the Bay Area.  Nothing could live up to that show and Monday’s night performance didn’t.  However, DB again demonstrated that he is a man of class and talent.  From his perfect, clean, white, starched jacket to his never aging, refined voice.  His voice can transform despair into comfortable beauty, his robotic dancing transforms awkwardness into fun.  And his lyrics transform the mundane to the poetic.  When he sings, “I’m an ordinary guy, burning down the house.”  It is clear that he is not ordinary and that he is burning down something else.  The song is a celebration of liberation.
However, SV is no slouch either.  First, she’s super cute.  So, she’s got that going for her.  And she’s a damn good singer and songwriter.  Though, perhaps she should refrain from taking dancing cues from DB since she ended up looking a bit like C-3PO from Star Wars jerking across the sparse stage.

Most notable and remarkable about this show was that 8 of the 12 people on stage were playing horns: trombones, trumpets, tuba, flugel horn and saxophones (technically a reed instrument).  Yet they were able to recreate “Burning Down the House,” “This Must be the Place,” and “Road to Nowhere” amongst other hits, with great enthusiasm.   A good start to a long week of fun and music.

Photos by: Award-winning photographer Joe S.

Harmony By the Bay: Old & New

Harmony By the Bay: Old & New
Shoreline Amphitheater
Mountain View, CA
September 29, 2012

Harmony By the Bay Music Festival
HBTB is a kind of neo-hippie, organic music festival with bottled water, kegs of beer in wheelbarrows and sustainable-living eco-tents including an open air market selling rasta knit caps, tie-dye everything, leather minis, hemp shoulder-bags and hand-crafted jewelry all with an environmentally-friendly bent.  Oh, and there was a Yoga tent.  If by 'harmony,' the organizers meant a hodge-podge of Northern California clichés grouped together then yes, that was this music festival.  All oddly enough, with a mostly Indie music orientation.  Mostly, but not entirely.

The Shins: Could Have Been Better
OK, you might say that it is unfair to say that The Shins could have been better when we missed the first few songs while lingering at another stage and also because we left when the band announced their last song.  OK, maybe, they played all my favorite songs before we came or after we left during the encore and it would be fairer to say that the middle could have been better but then someone might think I was talking about my waistline.   In any case, if a band neglects the middle of the show and backloads all their hits, then the show could have been better. 

For all their Indie rock cred, the boys from Alberqueque/Portland sounded very British-lite.  Very Beatles, Oasis, very derivative and a little boring.  Singer James Mercer has a limited range though, granted, he makes the most out of it. But, frankly, he did better with BrokenBells, a side project with producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse.   The band has a nice sound but seems to do better when playing acoustically which they did not do last night.  I think that the performance may have suffered from being in a large venue.  The Shins may have aspirations to fill 20,000 seat amphitheaters but the band and the music seemed smaller, more remote and lost in the open air.

Beats Antique: Old & New
Best representing the harmonic convergence of disparate styles that characterized HBTB was Beats Antique.  Beats Antique is a local fave that combines elements of electronic/dance, middle eastern, African etc. music.  Pretty much a little bit of everything.  They sound a bit like a stripped down version of Thievery Corporation though not quite as much fun.  They certainly stood as the most unique of all the performers at the festival despite their reliance on prerecorded vocals and other tracks which was a disappointment.  The band was accompanied by a bevy of belly-dancers which left some wondering- why can’t all bands have belly-dancers on stage?  I think I get what Beats Antique is trying to do and appreciate the efforts to modernize some old folk and traditional rhythms and bring those to a younger audience but I don’t think they have realized the true potential of this territory.  A for effort, B- for execution.

Jimmy Cliff:  Seasoned
Every festival should have a reggae band.  The music is universal and uplifting and on a warm sunny day in California, nothing could be better than an afternoon of reggae.  And it would be hard to do better than reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.  JC is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he proved why.  He was the consummate professional and entertainer.  While many of the festival acts seemed self-involved in their own fame and pretentious artistic doodling, JC was simply having a good time and it was infectious.  He played all his hits, The Harder They Come, Many Rivers to Cross, Wild World, I Can See Clearly Now, and more.  Despite being 64 years old, Cliff was the most energetic performer of the day with high kicks and twirls and exultations to the crowd.  It was a lesson in showmanship and performance for the younger bands.

Allison Kraus:  What is she doing here?
Amongst the indie, reggae, electronica, DJ-sets, and the eco-hippie open air markets, Allison Kraus played an old set of excellent bluegrass Americana.  It definitely seemed out of place but her wry sense of humor and the consummate professionalism of the band was undeniable.  And I loved “Man of Constant Sorrow” to close her set.

Tegan and Sara:  Tegan and Sara
My overwhelming impression of Tegan and Sara is that Tegan and Sara only care about Tegan and Sara.  Tegan and Sara’s performance was all about Tegan and Sara.  They really need to get out of the rockstar bubble.  I’ve complained before about stars that keep their bands in the dark behind them which is pretty much what Tegan and Sara did in their own way.  Behind Tegan and Sara on the stage were a couple platforms, fronted by waist-high bars of lights, where the rest of the band remained camped while Tegan and Sara were in front singing on their own.  The songs seemed overly self-indulgent and overly self-aware.  It is a pity because I like their music, to a degree, but their performance pushed me away from them.

Kimbra:  OK Pop
There were other artists before Kimbra but she was the first we saw when we arrived.  Kimbra is now best known for her mega-viral hit with Gotye, Someone that I Used to Know, which was destined to be the hit song of the summer until Call Me Maybe came along.  Both songs have inspired perhaps hundreds of video parodies.  But Kimbra is a decent enough pop songstress and is likely to have a good career.  Time will tell.  Mainly, her performance suffered from excessive volume that quite literally shook my entire body until I had to leave.

Coldplay: Colorful

HP Pavilion
San Jose, CA
April 27, 2012

Coldplay:  Colorful

Literally colorful.  And, honestly, there aren’t many other ways to describe the Coldplay concert in San Jose on Friday night.  At times, I felt I was inside a massive arena-sized kaleidoscope of spinning, twirling, flashing colors.  The band had distributed thousands of multicolored wrist-bands at the entrances which were controlled with a cheap plastic radio signal so when the band took the stage and during various songs throughout the night, the entire audience lit up like a human piñata.  During the opening number, "Hurts Like Heaven," massive plumes of colored confetti rained over the audience.  The arena crowd looked a bit like a multi-layered cake covered with candy sprinkles and the stage looked as if it was painted by a graffiti artist.  The whole spectacle almost created a sensory overload.  In fact, after the first two songs, I thought the band really had nowhere else to go.

I have frequently denigrated Coldplay’s music.  Others have called it ‘weepy chick rock’ or music that forgot the melody (or stole it).  I have called Coldplay ‘excellent background music’ which is a pretty harsh indictment.  Even super-critic OS, after Friday's show, said that lead singer Chris Martin is 'full of himself' (though he is an Arsenal fan so props for football-allegiances).  However, the extravagant lightshow was well-adapted to the big, open cinematic sound and large crescendos that characterize most of CP’s music.  

There were many highlights despite Chris Martin's insincere thanks for braving traffic and high-ticket prices-  What?? Who's responsible for that??  Some highlights included the release of dozens of giant beach balls from the rafters of the arena, "Yellow," the first encore song being played from the back of the arena before the band sprinted back to the stage through the crowd, large tear-shaped psychedelic colored balloons that lit up around the upper level during the song, “Every Tear is a Waterfall.”   Our seats were rather high up in the front row of the upper deck but this also gave us a wonderful, unobstructed vantage point for the entire concert even if we were left out of the beach-ball party.

I would not consider myself a Coldplay-convert after the live experience which I was assured was a religious experience.  But, I can better appreciate why others adore the band after having seen the spectacle.  I still find the music a bit forgettable but the band puts a huge amount of energy and effort into pleasing their audience.  So, I would definitely recommend the concert and for real CP-fans, I am sure that it will be an great, though perhaps not transcendent, experience.

Lauryn Hill: Frantic

Lauryn Hill
The Warfield Theater
San Francisco, CA
February 16, 2012

Lauryn Hill: Frantic

Frantic may not be a word generally associated with the mellow hip-hop stylings of Lauryn Hill. Both her much acclaimed album from 1998, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and her 2002 MTV Unplugged 2.0 offer quiet, atmospheric hip-hop. Man, that would have been

awesome to hear live! Instead, her performance at the Warfield on Thursday night was entirely frantic and desperate to please. The mellow, sparse arrangements were replaced by methamphetamine-amped splurges of blared noisescape. The whole show was definitely a violation of expectations and even more so a violation of acceptable sound. Too many chefs to say the least.

Not only was her performance marred by the amped-up arrangements that made every song sound the same, the sound itself was muddy, distorted and overbearingly loud. That's becoming a common refrain for shows these days. I likes me a good, loud show to add to the excitement but not when the result is a blast of indistinguishable sound-blobs. In addition, few artists can survive a poor bass performance and, for most of the night, LH's bass was little more than a blaring, thumping drone that washed out her vocals and what remained of the melody.

I admire musical artists that want to reinvent their previous work and Lauryn must be getting tired of singing the same songs for the past 14 years (maybe it's time for a new album, hon) but few songs were reinvented for the better. You know that the show was lacking when your primary rumination on the way home is about what might have been.

On the plus side: Very tasty Indian food at Amber India!

Other opinions:

MT: I'm afraid Lauryn Hill was indeed a bit of a train wreck but major fault lay in the mixing board, bass at 15, vocals at 5 and the endless over-rearrangement of songs making them bloody unrecognizable. Pity because she's still got the lungs/ the pitch/ the charisma juice but her bass player was channeling/parroting In Living Color. And in the rare moments when the DJ level was turned down, her backup singers outsang her. Fun night anyway.

JW: I stuck it out until before the encore. The song choices were great with some fun cover songs thrown in [Ed. note: Always love to hear a Bob Marley cover] but I was kinda sorta disappointed at the production quality which did very little to show off Lauryn's vocals. She sang about 2 minutes of pure vocals near the end which was great but made me long for an acoustic set. I really felt like my Dad watching the show last night what with all the noise, I was feeling quite grumpy and old-fashioned in my listening preferences. And it made me feel sweaty just watching Lauryn strut her stuff in a fur coat. What's wrong with the yoof today, don't they know good quality entertainment when an old fogey demands it!!

Lenny Kravitz: Retro and Proud of It

Lenny Kravitz
Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
February 14, 2012

Lenny Kravitz: Retro and Proud of It

Authenticity is a precious commodity. It is the coin of the realm in most artistic expression. But it is difficult to define even though most people will say they know it when they see it. The dictionary definition is "not false or copied, genuine, real." It is easy to confuse 'authenticity' with 'originality' when it comes to popular music. I mean 'original' in the sense of new and inventive. These terms can bounce around in your head a lot
when going to a Lenny Kravitz show. The performance by LK in Oakland on Valentine's Day was not new or inventive but it was genuine and a whole lot of fun.

Lenny's music is unabashedly retro. His songs can
sound completely derivative of Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix or even Led Zeppelin, basically any 1970s hard-rock outfit. Perhaps LK's biggest hit,
American Woman, was originally written and performed by the Guess Who in 1970. Nevertheless, I think Lenny has an aura of authenticity because he doesn't deny these influences. His attitude in song and on stage is: 'This is me for good or bad.' OK, Maybe I am confusing authenticity with honesty. But there isn't a lot of either these days in popular culture where every reality star seems to have a scripted angle. So, LK's performance was refreshing in its familiarity.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt Lenny's popularity that he looks like a casting agent's dream of a rock star, like he walked out of a poster on to the stage. He's ready-made for superstardom. His good looks are also probably partly responsible for his appearances in popular movies including: Zoolander (one of the funniest movies in the past 10 years), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and the currently released
The Hunger Games.

Many of Kravitz's songs are not that memorable even though he's had several hits, including Tuesday's highlights, American Woman, Always On the Run, It Ain't Over til It's Over and Let Love Rule. He performed them with zest and the crowd at the Fox Theater was ready and willing to be entertained. The sound quality was also remarkably good. I have complained regularly about the Fox but the mix was great throughout the theater. Also great was LK's horn section. I loves me a good horn section. So, overall, two thumbs up for the LK Retro and Proud show.

Wilco: Shut the F- Up

The Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
January 31, 2012

Wilco: Shut the Fuck Up

There was a moment during Wilco's sold-out performance at the Fox that seemed to epitomize the band's ethos and music. Lead singer, writer, producer, all-round revolutionary and renaissance man, Jeff Tweedy, took the mic between songs and said: "We were looking around this beautiful room and we thought we should play all our tender and beautiful songs. But, we came out here and it seems like you all want to rock. But we're going to play our tender and beautiful songs anyway
because otherwise we wouldn't be true to ourselves. So, shut the fuck up." The crowd laughed and, after the following song, he apologized for telling everyone to shut the fuck up saying, "I don't know what got into me."

Wilco has long traded on Tweedy's unyielding artistic integrity and his beautiful and tender songs for both good and bad. He pens some of the most literate, melodic songs that you'll find anywhere. Catchy, intelligent, seriously good music. At the same time, he can indulge himself way too much at the expense of his fans. Wilco's new album, "The Whole Love," has been
characterized as "wildly experimental" which can also be read as "wildly weird" or, maybe,
"wildly indulgent." It gets to be called 'experimental' because Tweedy has a lot of spare artistic cred among the music cognoscenti. His plaintive, distinctive singing style and relaxed melodies leave little to dislike about Wilco.

There was also little to dislike about their performance. I think Wilco's live performances are a bit overrated but they put in a solid show last night including a good mix of old and new. The sound at the Fox continues to be sporadic. At times, it sounded muddy or closed in. You need to move around to find a good spot. This continues to be a source of disappointment for such a premier venue. There is no acceptable excuse for there to be anything less than crystal clear sound at a concert with all the sophisticated technology available. If the sound is no better than my computer speakers at home, why am I at the show?

Nevertheless, despite the flaws, the show gets two thumbs-up. Wilco's music is always interesting and fun and they also had a great light show. The stage was backed by several columns of ropes with randomly spaced white knots, like large dishrags tied to a rope. The white knots caught the colorful beams of light creating a psychedelic effect. Overall, a good start to 2012.