This was interesting - 7. Kingpin - "Serious" Wilco fans got annoyed by Bennett hamming it up in the live setting, but this was always fun. It's only rock and roll, for Christ's sake. Let 'er rip!
I agree, but the accompanying Youtube clip (some outdoor festival, looked like ca. 1996/97) doesn't really prove the point of Bennett as 'ham' too well. I'm not against artistic/musical progression in any way, shape or form, but I prefer the Bennett version of the band. Who doesn't like their live acts rocking out and getting into it? What kind of 'serious' Wilco fan was annoyed at Bennett's lead guitar-dude moves? I've never met him/her, but I'd like to speak with them
I wasn't around for that era of Wilco, and all I have to go by is I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
and other Youtube vids of that era that are floating around, but maybe compared to the rest of the band (subdued, focused) his energetic playing and all might have been a little
distracting/show-stealing. Kind of reminds of that Bennett/Tweedy exchange from the movie, something like
"Dude, could you beef up your tone a little bit?"
"Oh, yeah. You know...I wonder if the twin guitar thing might be a little...obsolete?"
Then Bennett laughs and is like "Are you kidding?" Then says something about making his tone "fuckin' rockin'" and Tweedy kind of shuffles off, biting his tongue and leaving something unsaid to avoid confrontation. Another of those conflict moments from the movie that foreshadows Bennett getting shitcanned. But to me it sort of sums up the wild/rocking side (live at least) vs. the sleepy, politely-rocking, dad-rock direction Tweedy has moved the band in...not that they still aren't making quality music and some good songs, and are (still) a powerhouse live act. I caught the Nels Cline et al. version of Wilco here in town in October '04, just before the election so you can imagine the energy and sloganeering and all, and they were great. Cline has all the guitar talent you could ask for, can shred and I'm sure can play pretty much anything - and he isn't 'the problem' with Wilco now, nor are the other FNGs - but to me he sort of personifies the direction they've gone in and I feel they've lost something. At least now that Tweedy is The Center of Teh Circle and surrounded by, I hate to say it, yes-men. Out of some kind of inner conflict, a little disharmony/polarity within a group often comes the best music/art I think, and while it's obvious that the newest incarnation of Wilco is working nicely and is creative and harmonious and is all rainbows and puppies, I think this is showing in the music in a bit of a negative way. But then it still comes down to the subjectivity of taste, I'll prefer a Being There
while someone else (not necessarily a newer, bandwagonesque fan but likely) will prefer A Ghost Is Born
or Sky Blue Sky
, so if you don't know or care about the band's history (or weren't there from the beginning, like me), it's all much ado about nothing and it should be easy to find something in their catalogue to like. But back to Cline, and this goes hand in hand with that extreme band harmony making their music tame bit, there's this studied, kind of sterile clinical thing he brings overall - style, tone, stage presence, personality - that doesn't quite work for me when I think of what Wilco is. A serious, detached/reserved jazz fusion kind of attitude - appreciate from a distance! - compared to the sort of organic, loose, technically accomplished but not studied, rock/country/folk based approach that the band had when Bennett was with them, and that he personified himself.
Okay, done belaboring my points...for now.