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Wilco, The Greatest Of American Indie Acts

Wilco playing live at The Princess Theatre in Brisbane
All photos by Chris Searles (@christopher_searles)




We’ve been truly blessed over the Summer with a constant flow of dearly loved and hugely respected international indie artists performing live. To have Fleet Foxes, The National and Wilco all visit us within a week is almost too much to fathom. 

In a sign of respect for the art form and live experience for their fans, Wilco opted to book two consecutive nights at the gorgeous Princess Theatre rather than one quick show at a larger venue. All reports from night one were positive, so I was eagerly anticipating a night of quality music and musicianship … and oh man were we treated to both. 

Opening with 'Infinite Surprise', the opening track from their latest long player “Cousin”, the live version sounds (in my opinion) even better than the studio cut. Hearing Jeff Tweedy repeat the line “it’s good to be alive” over and over pretty much sums up Wilco in 2024. They sound better than ever ready to fill us with musical joy for the next two hours.

Wilco have released over a dozen albums since the mid-90’s, and they’re spread evenly throughout the evening with a fine choice of their most loved anthems and deep cuts alike. 

'Handshake Drugs' is nice and early at song three, as John Stirrat’s bright and bouncy bass line takes us on a journey into a dark subject matter in one of my favourite Wilco songs about the pain and shame of drug addiction. 

A 24 song list seems huge, but it skates by as we’re treated to a stellar mix of all you would hope for in a Wilco set list, and more. 

'Impossible Germany' from Blue Sky Blue saunters in around halfway through the night, and we’re once again reminded viscerally of what an incredible and freakish talent lead guitarist Nels Cline is. His unique and otherworldly style fills out the centre of this beautiful piece of music, before Jeff and the equally as talented multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone share guitar duties on the hooky outro riff.  The heartbeat of Wilco is Glenn Kotche, who is so much more than a drummer… more like a conductor as he swings around his percussion base station filling out these glorious songs with subtle flourishes and crashing crescendos. 

He and John Stirrat are in lockstep as they provide the backbone, with the infinitely interesting Mikael Jorgensen filling out the music with keys and piano tucked away behind Nels amps and pedals - but providing so much to the soundscape that is Wilco. 

It’s an interesting question, is the label “indie” music title even relevant in 2024? The idea of a grassroots effort to win over fans and a ground swell of interest in a new indie band through word of mouth seems almost quaint today. But here we are, Wilco tour t-shirts proudly on display, once again in awe of this greatest of American indie acts. 


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