Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wilco - Ashes of American Flags

I'd like to open this DVD review boldly by saying that Ashes of American Flags may be the best shot concert film since Martin Scorcese's "The Last Waltz". The film is expertly directed by Brendan Canty and Cristoph Green who utilize HD cameras to capture the Wilco experience. AoAF follows Wilco on their 2008 tour and focuses on shows at Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Cain's Ballroom to Washington D.C. at the 9:30 Club, Tipitina's in New Orleans and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. While Wilco is known for selling out stadiums and ampitheatres, they made sure to play some of their favourite smaller venues on this tour. The DVD is made up mostly of live concert footage with some backstage footage mixed in for good measure. The songs chosen for this film illustrate the gentle, the wild, the noisy and the beautiful sounds that only a band brimming with self-confidence can produce. This is Wilco in their prime. Wilco's reliance on the avant-garde shines on the noise-filled ending of "Handshake Drugs" and the organized madness exemplified in the breakdowns of "Via Chicago". But we also get to see the tender side of Wilco during their Pulse-like performance to nobody of "Wishful Thinking". Just as we begin to think that Wilco is relying almost too heavily on their new love of noise-rock, the oldschool rocker "Monday" is thrown in for good measure. We get to witness Nels Cline transform into a swaying animal in the standout "Sky Blue Sky" track "Impossible Germany", a song which he later reports contributes to his whiplash problems, proving that drugs and booze aren't the only things that cause physical ailments in the world of rock and roll. Ashes of American Flags gives the audience a candid view of a mature rock band, focused on the creation of music instead of the rock and roll lifestyle. Wilco is a band that takes their music seriously, and as a result, the music is thought-provoking, challenging and intricate. The DVD ends with "War on War", a simple tune with repetitive lyrics that hit home. "There's a war on war, there's a war on war, there's a war on war, there's a war on war". Tweedy an company really drive home the fact that even though there's always a war on some sort of war, we always have the option to listen to some great music and dance, and that's what I recommend you do during this film.

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