This ain't your mother's sensitive singer songwriter!.
No, during the entire time he has led Wilco, from the dissolution of Uncle Tupelo through the turbulence of the most recently acclaimed studio work, Jeff Tweedy has redefined what it means to be introspective. This double live CD only reaffirms his vision. More importantly, it documents the work of a versatile band that deserves kudos aplenty for realizing that vision.
The revelation of confessional truths in public can seem transparent and/or glib, and Kicking Television just barely allows Jeff Tweedy to avoid those pitfalls, in part because he is so disarming in the limited between song patter included here. But it's a tribute to the band's studio like-precision, on cuts such as "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which rescues the whole group from sounding merely facile (though it's a close call as they roll through these 23 cuts).
But Wilco's execution of the tension-release principle at the heart of great rock and roll finds its apotheosis in performances like "Handshake Drugs. The riotous cacophony of guitars provides a catharsis for the narrative of the song just as the unified attack of Tweedy & Co. on "Misunderstood constitute something of a primal scream kind of therapy. If the second half of this show has some semblance of being flat, it may be because the material is less challenging, harkening as it does to the simpler structure of earlier Wilco material.
Nevertheless, the adoring rapture of the hometown Chicago audience, as captured this past May at the Vic Theatre, is not unlike the adulation bordering on idolatry that Jeff Tweedy has evoked over the past couple years through the acclaimed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born. But Kicking Television succeeds mainly because the textured detail of the instrumental mix, engineered by Jim Scott, mirrors the eclectics of Wilco's entire canon of work.
Acoustic and electric guitars, organ and mellotron on "Company on My Back" are a far cry from the alt-country of early Wilco (and the band's ancestors, Tupelo), but the dolorous likes of "Via Chicago and "Airline to Heaven 's lap steel remind of that era. "Spiders (Kidsmoke), all eleven minutes-plus, brings full circle the abstract soul-searching at the heart of Jeff Tweedy's current concept.
Near constant personnel turbulence almost seems to have aided in the creative process for this band. Once live albums became a de rigueur inclusion in an artist's discography, such a release as Kicking Television signified an end to chapter in the career. Jeff Tweedy and Wilco have been nothing if not unpredictable during their decade-long lifetime, so it'll be nothing less than fascinating to hear and see where they go from here.
Personnel: Jeff Tweedy: guitar, vocals; John Stirratt: bass, vocals; Glenn
Kotche: drums percussion; Mikael Jorgenson: keyboards, vocals; Nels Cline: guitars, lap steel; Pat Sansone: keyboards, guitars, vocals.