Wilco/Preston School Of Industry : London WC2 Astoria

...the further they venture from their alt.country roots the closer they get to our hearts...

Scott Kannberg, or Spiral Stairs, was the guitarist in '90s quirk-rockers Pavement. His new band Preston School Of Industry likewise sound like an off-kilter take on early REM. This is a good thing.

The choice of PSOI as support to Chicagoan art-country rockers Wilco is appropriate, because at times the latter's excellent new album, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot', sounds like the Pavement of 'Terror Twilight', only with Stephen Malkmus' aloof insincerity replaced by Jeff Tweedy's downhome humanity. Not that there's too much of it on display tonight, however: "I'm keeping quiet because it's London and I've said too much here before," mumbles Tweedy by way of explanation.

Since the departure of keyboardist Jay Bennett, Wilco live has shrunk to Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glen Kotche and multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach. Together they make a sound that is in turns skeletal ('Kamera'), brutal ('Misunderstood') and rural ('California Stars').

Crowd-pleasers like 'Outtasite (Outta Mind)' make an appearance late on, but it's during 'Ashes Of American Flags' and 'Reservations' that Wilco conjure moments of fractured beauty from total dissonance and prove that the further they venture from their alt.country roots the closer they get to our hearts.

Nathaniel Cramp

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