Jeff Tweedy has left an indelible mark on the alt-country, Americana, indie rock, dad rock or whatever you want to call it scenes for over 30 years. When he decides to come around for a solo show in someone’s living room in suburban Chicago, you shouldn’t pass if you can make it because you’ll get 30+ songs from all of his bands and some covers over the course of 3+ hours. You’ll also get plenty of lively banter.
On September 20th, at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, WI, Tweedy treated a sold out crowd to a career spanning performance to kick off his fall solo tour. He is as comfortable in this space as he is now in his own skin and maybe even in his own living room. This has not always been case for Mr. Tweedy. In the past, a heckler or someone calling out a request would have been chided. Not anymore. Lately he has been bordering on eager to converse with his adoring fans in the past handful of years. The musician could have been soured by the intermittent flashes that went off on phones last night, but he didn’t. He’s in a good place for sure.
This night could be described as intimate and filled with love. Tweedy seemed to be really engaged with his new tunes, including “Bombs Away,” “Evergreen,” “Let’s Go Rain” and “Some Birds.” He was unabashed in unveiling newer unreleased cuts, asking for permission to play them (Were we going to tell him no?). He even gave us permission to sing along to the new material, cueing us in on the parts we could actually add to.
Not surprisingly, where the audience really came alive is when he played Wilco material, but this was not a sing-along evening for fans. Even though many knew the words to “Jesus Etc,” “Misunderstood,” “Shot in the Arm,” “California Stars” and “Impossible Germany,” they did more humming and foot tapping than signing in unison. When there was muted singing from the capacity crowd, Tweedy merely smiled and proceeded.
The absolute highlight of the night was a beautifully drawn out version of “One Sunday Morning” from Wilco The Album.
Jeff Tweedy is not one to deny that he writes songs that are personal and a little dark. He joked that over the summer he played midday sets at festivals where there was bright blue skies and sunshine, not exactly a well-conceived match. He said “I felt weird playing after a band that might have just played ‘La Bamba’.” He makes no excuses for tone. He embraces it. Somber songs coming from a guy that knows where he came from, where he’s at, and where he’s going. These lyrics from “One Sunday Morning” say it all:
Outside I look lived in
Like the bones in a shrine
How am I forgiven
O’ I’ll give it time
No need to ask for forgiveness or to forget. Just keep on playing.