TORONTO – Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy says he’s looking forward to playing a free show at the Vancouver Olympics next year, but he was conflicted as to whether he really wanted the Games to come to his hometown in 2016.
Chicago lost out on the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio earlier this week, and Tweedy says he was of two minds on whether he wanted the Olympics in Illinois.
“It seemed like it was a good thing for the city and a good thing for the United States, and a good thing for the local economy, and it would’ve made a lot of people happy,” Tweedy told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from Kansas City, Mo., where his band was on tour.
“On a personal, very selfish note, it seemed like it was going to kind of be a nightmare logistically. And, you know, hard to get around, and not something to look forward to, in that regard.
“So I’m sad it didn’t happen and I’m relieved at the same time a little bit.”
Wilco’s concert in Vancouver – scheduled for an Olympic festival on Feb. 13 – will kick off a slew of Canadian tour dates, with shows planned in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Hamilton, London, Ont., Ottawa and Halifax.
And with some gaps in that schedule – which would have the sextet staying north of the border through early March – Tweedy said he thought more Canadian dates might eventually be announced.
Tweedy notes, however, that some of those breaks in the schedule were calculated so the group could have time to explore their surroundings.
“Especially if we’re gonna be in the Canadian Rockies,” he said.
“That’s the kind of stuff I really live for if we have a chance to be in those parts of the world. Anytime we have the chance to do that we try to make a little time to get out.”
The band might not have always done so, Tweedy notes, but what he calls this more “luxurious” tour schedule is just one of the ways in which the 2009 edition of Wilco is making things easier on themselves.
Tweedy, for one, sounds content and relaxed as he chats on the telephone.
The 42-year-old Tweedy spent the earlier part of the decade in and out of rehab for the painkillers he became addicted to in the late ’90s.
Having long claimed sobriety, Tweedy now chats about using Google Maps to try to locate a scenic spot for a jog during a day off in Kansas City (he chose unwisely and wound up in an “post-apocalyptic city-planning nightmare with nobody in it, completely taken over by beavers and squirrels, selling crack”), and about the way his 13-year-old son, Spencer, deconstructs his music-listening habits.
Wilco as a band is much more stable too.
In the early years, the group cycled through a rotating cast of players, including Jay Bennett, whose firing was chronicled in the 2002 documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” and who died in May of a drug overdose.
For the past five years, Tweedy has been surrounded by the same five players: founding bassist John Stirratt, guitarist Nels Cline, percussionist Glenn Kotche, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and pianist Mikael Jorgensen.
That constancy, Tweedy says, has been “amazing.”
“It’s really, really great,” said Tweedy, whose band will play back-to-back shows at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Oct. 14 and 15.
“It really great to feel like we’ve got some time behind us and we have a history together, and there’s a whole … lot of different things to play off of when you’re doing things that way, as opposed to kind of making something new and fresh with a different landscape each time.
“I’m excited about what Wilco has ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, others are still excited about the band’s past.
Influential indie webzine Pitchfork recently counted down the Top 200 albums of the 2000s, ultimately listing Wilco’s 2002 breakthrough “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” at No. 4.
Tweedy seemed a little amused by the honour.
“I mean, I’m sure it was completely scientific however they distilled it down to whatever list they did,” Tweedy said. “Those guys pretty much know everything that there is to know about music, so I trust them.”
And yet, with his band currently on the road to promote their seventh full-length, “Wilco (The Album),” Tweedy also sounds hesitant to glorify his band’s past.
The new record is a tight, melodic tribute to ’70s rock, and finds the band moving further away from the spontaneous experimental production flourishes that characterized the celebrated “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” But Tweedy stops short of saying that he prefers the newer record.
“I don’t know if it’s better – I mean, I feel like we were better at making ‘Wilco (The Album)’ than we were at making ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,”‘ he said, referencing the notoriously tension-fraught sessions behind the older album, before laughing.
“It’s really weird when you reach a point … when you really start competing with people’s perceptions of records,” he continued.
“There’s no way you can make a record that can compete with another record that has seven years … of people adding meaning to it and it being a part of someone’s life. You can’t just drop something out of the sky on someone that’s going to have those kinds of connections and meanings, no matter how good it is.
“And it’s kind of a revelation to figure that out. If you ask me, yeah, I think every time we’ve done our best. We’ve really worked hard to do our best each time. We aren’t slacking, we aren’t trying to do anything. I feel the same way about every record: we’ve really worked hard to make the best record we can make.”
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