Photos By Ryan Kelly, Words By Ross Bonaime
Even though Wilco is one of my favorite bands and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is unquestionably one of the best albums of the 00’s, I’ve unfortunately never seen them live. Seeing Jeff Tweedy though, you get the best of two worlds. On one hand, you get incredibly new material form Wilco’s lead singer, and on the other, you get gorgeous reconstructions of classic Wilco songs. With Tweedy’s sold-out performance at Lincoln Theatre, he gave a beautiful glimpse at his past and his future.
For the first hour, Tweedy presented the audience with a look at what he’s been working on. When these first tour dates were announced, it was unclear what material he was touring in support of, considering the last Wilco album came out three years ago, and I doubted Tweedy was touring to support his guest role on Parks & Rec. However, Tweedy recently announced him and his drummer son have formed a band, adorable named Tweedy and that they’re releasing a new album called Sukierae in September.
The thirteen songs that Tweedy played sounded wonderfully similar to the material of Wilco, such as the opening song “Down From Above,” which has that distinct feeling Tweedy brings to his songs, sounding haunting and stunning, almost like something not quite right is going on. Tweedy and his band powered through their thirteen song set, taking awhile for Tweedy to even address the audience, before he stated that the audience was “really nice, but don’t let that go to your heads.”
With one of his new songs “Slow Love,” he asked the audience to sing along, hoping that they’d do a better job than the previous night’s audience in Baltimore. Tweedy stated that singing along to the song does make the whole scenario sound like a cult, yet it would basically just be a cult of people who like chili dogs. When the crowd bemoaned that they would have to sing two different lines, Tweedy jokingly made fun of the audience for it being too confusing then stating, “sing whatever the fuck you want.” Tweedy’s rapport with the audience continued through the rest of the night, joking about how the audience seemed to be filled with terrible clappers, and to his credit, he’s totally right at the inconsistency and indecisiveness of those who decided to clap.
Tweedy then said that he knows listening to an hour of new music can’t be that easy, so as his band left the stage, he grabbed his acoustic guitar, the lights went down, as he started to go through some great selections from the last decade or so of Wilco’s career. He started with ‘Via Chicago,” then got into two tracks from A Ghost Is Born, “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and “Muzzle of Bees.” I’ve never particularly thought of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” as a overwhelmingly pretty song, but solo and acoustic is probably the best presentation of this song.
The crowd understandably went nuts as he went into ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” The rest of the set featured great selections from recent Wilco albums, such as “Sky Blue Sky” from the album of the same name, “Deeper Down” (Wilco The Album), “Born Alone” (The Whole Love) and the fantastic closer “Jesus, Etc.” from YHF. So yeah, Tweedy basically follows up a dozen exciting new songs with a ten-song stretch of Wilco’s finest.
His band and son returned for a three song encore, followed by another great two song encore, leaving Tweedy solo again, even unplugging his guitar perform much more intimate versions of Wilco greats, “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and “Misunderstood,” which ended with a fan sing along that was simple enough to follow along.
Tweedy might not be seeing Wilco, but I’ll be damned if seeing Tweedy solo might actually be better than seeing the real thing.