Wilco celebrates 20th anniversary of beloved album ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ with nationwide tour

Jack Austin, Senior Staffer

Blue lights pierced through smoke as frontman Jeff Tweedy sang about love, cigarettes and Chicago. The crowd swayed back and forth, standing for the duration of Wilco’s performance Friday.

April 22 marked the first of three Chicago shows commemorating the 20th anniversary of the band’s seminal album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Wilco is attempting to recreate the studio recordings for a live audience.

“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” looms large as one of the band’s most beloved full albums, known as a turning point where Wilco began to find its unique sound and voice.

According to Shanlie Stead, who attended Friday’s concert, the tour is a measurement of change. She said the album, her favorite of Wilco’s, reflected the urban environment in which it was created.

“It was the lyrics, the sound (that resonated with me). It was avant-garde,” Stet said. “It is one of those albums that you listen to from the beginning to the very end.”

Josh Rosenberg, host of music podcast “Roadcase,” became a Wilco fan when Nonesuch Records released “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” He said the concert was particularly special to him because the album was his introduction to the band’s music.

“I like (the album’s) cohesiveness, the production, the feel of it. The way it’s tracked is genius,” Rosenberg said. “There are some incredible f—ing bangers that have stood the test of time.”

Concertgoers Patrick Zakem and Mick Johnson, who both grew up in St. Louis before moving to Chicago, said they were excited to hear the album’s original arrangements. Friday’s performance marked the 45th Wilco show Zakem attended.

Tony Guillen said “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” stands up to other alternative landmark albums like “Kid A” by Radiohead.

“A band develops a sort of signature over time,” Guillen said. “To me, I think this is their sort of record where they found (their signature).”

After performing the album, Wilco played a number of covers and capped off the night with a series of unreleased outtakes from the album.

Stet said he left the venue very satisfied with the band’s performance. She said the highlights of the night were “Poor Places” and “Reservations.”

“It was amazing. You could see how they have grown,” Stet said. “You could see how they still have that heart. They’ve gotten older and more confident.”

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