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Preview: Wilco

Tweedy and company are the first rock band to play the revived Orpheum Theater


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How did Wilco — if not milquetoast, then among the least objectionable rock bands ever — become a lightning rod of controversy and the rebellious wrecking ball of a crumbling industry? It goes beyond Jeff Tweedy's mirror-image career end zones, the extremes of mythologized Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) and maligned Sky Blue Sky (2007), but the inner folds of those fortune-shifting origami games are as good a place to start as any. They raise the initial question, among others: Is the former so revered because it was stranger than everyone expected (though less strange now), discarded by an evil label and belatedly triumphant on a subsidiary? Is the latter undervalued because it was simpler than some hoped (though less simple now), an instant chart success and embraced by Volkswagen admen? Perhaps the answer has less to do with the band's context and more to do with ours; perhaps the albums are just the first and last fissures of an invisible generational divide, over which Wilco leapt as one perceived entity and landed as another. (This jibes with the taxonomical averseness of middle child A Ghost Is Born, a transitional, neither-here-nor-there LP if ever there was one.) More likely, it's all a theoretical exercise, a sandstorm in a marble: Wilco has, after all, issued simple albums before (the Uncle Tupelo epitaph A.M.), and it's released strange ones since — increasingly so, in fact, culminating in July's surprise, self-released giveaway Star Wars. One thing is certain: If there's one song that deserves the Carnegie Hall acoustics of the renovated Orpheum Theater, it's not "Kamera" or "War on War" or "Jesus, etc." — it's "Impossible Germany," and Nels Cline's three-minute, hi-def paean to Tom Verlaine. William Tyler opens. Tickets $33-$63.


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