By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
What once was a quirk of omission seems now to have grown into a full-blown phobia: Once again, Wilco cruises past St. Louis without stopping for a show, continuing west down I-70 and landing in Columbia on the way to a West Coast tour. The group's last stop in town wasn't really a stop at all but an appearance out at Riverport as the opener for R.E.M. last year; before that, Wilco hadn't played St. Louis since the release of debut album A.M. in 1995. Of course, who can blame singer Jeff Tweedy, who's become a sort of celebrity in St. Louis on the basis of his roots here as part of Uncle Tupelo? He confirmed his discomfort in an interview with the RFT last year: "It's hard to play in St. Louis sometimes because you're haunted by so many ghosts of yourself. Maybe that's the real you, but it's not anymore. I always look out at the crowd and I see someone who saw me puke on their front porch, and it's like, 'Well, here I am.' It's like driving by your high school. It's reality, and the kind of stuff you don't want to think about'" (and our dwelling on this phobia probably won't much help, either).
It's been another busy year for Wilco: The second volume of Mermaid Avenue, their collaboration with Billy Bragg in which they've adapted the lyrics of Woody Guthrie, was recently released, and they just finished a tour as an opener for Natalie Merchant. Plus, they're all over the soundtrack circuit: Their music is featured in Jim Carrey's new Me, Myself & Irene (they cover Steely Dan's "Any Major Dude Will Tell You") and is featured prominently in the new film adaption of Denis Johnson's great book Jesus' Son ("She's a Jar" and "Airline to Heaven").
No news yet on a follow-up to last year's fantastic album Summer Teeth, though Wilco seems to be booked on the concert circuit at least through the end of the summer, precluding much studio work. But it seems as though the only chance you're going to get to check Wilco live in the area is this show at Columbia's great Blue Note. That's actually OK in our book; it's the perfect venue for Wilco and well worth the drive.