Sunday, April 19, 2009

WILCO LIVE: ASHES OF AMERICAN FLAGS (Brendan Canty & Christoph Green, 2009, USA)
I wonder why we listen to poets, when nobody gives a fuck? Wilco proves that they are indeed one of the greatest rock bands in the world, mixing honky-tonk, lightening guitars and intense percussion, layered upon Jeff Tweedy’s insightful prose to create an artful travelogue into the dark recesses of the human psyche. ASHES is a concert film, focusing upon the intimate performances at smaller venues where the band really shines: otherwise, their passion becomes dispersed among stadium crowds where the music is diluted and vaguely recognizable lost in the ether of translation between amplifier and cerebrum. Killer renditions of VIA CHICAGO and IMPOSSIBLE GERMANY are highlights while the band’s whimsical humor is displayed during HEAVY METAL DRUMMER, recovering backstage, or traveling between gigs. We see the physicality of their ferocious performances after the musicians expunge their anxieties onstage, purging themselves of this excess energy drawn from some inner dialogue with demons moving forward through the flaming doors: this WAR ON WAR with artistic integrity and pop culture contrivance. Suffering, we see guitarist Nels Cline icing his fused vertebrae, drummer Glen Kotche (greatest Rock’n Roll percussionist since Keith Moon!) with swollen and bloody hands, and Jeff Tweedy treating his strained vocal chords. Gone is the sex and drugs of past generations and instead the distinct and powerful honesty of dedicated musicians, inexplicably driven to this furious expression. The film ends with a sublime moment between Tweedy and his proud father, and his accomplishments are seen in a vibrant human light, an everyman who feels connected to the world around him…and us. (A)

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