It was not long ago that I would find myself spending countless weekends behind my drum set, my father on his guitar, simply jamming it out. There was no forethought, no production, no mission statement, but instead the simple joy of spontaneous creation. Similar in this father-son low key rock philosophy is Tweedy – Jeff, Wilco’s beloved introvert frontman, and his 18 year-old son Spencer. Their double album, Sukierae, drops on September 23 and is currently available for first listen on NPR. It’s the product of candid father-son fragmented composition, and charges 2 sides of music with mellow introspection. It is named for Jeff’s wife, Sue “Sukie” Miller, who battled cancer during the the album’s recording. For obvious reasons, Tweedy’s music hits very close to home, and seeing it live made it feel that much closer.
Tweedy (& son) opened up a 28-song set with “Nobody Dies Anymore”, a sleepy ode to anguish, Jeff’s earnest delivery piquing my memory of a familiar voice I hadn’t heard in over a year. And though solemnity certainly underscored many of the Tweedy originals performed last night, the concert was anything but a 2 hour-long rainy parade. “World Away” might just be my new favorite song in 7/4 (and I dig songs in 7/4), and for the first time, I heard Spencer really lay into his kit and damn did it sound good. Jeff even got the crowd singing the opening lyrics to a song they didn’t know (“Slow Love”), over its Television-esque vamp. “Now keep doing that until you feel the urge to empty your wallet and give us all your money,” he added.
“Diamond Light Pt. 1” opened up with a phat (yes, phat) beat from Spencer and ascended into psychedelic dissonance before breaking down into a half-time guitar jam. Jeff introduced his band – Darin Gray on bass, Jim Ekington on guitar and Liam Cunningham on guitar and keys – the latter of whom, visibly younger than Elkington and Gray, “saves Spencer from the indignity that is traveling with 40-something year-old men.” Before digging into “Wait For Love” and the killer “High As Hello”, Jeff took a moment to talk about the album. “People keep telling me my albums are too long,” he joked. “For anyone complaining about the album being too long, you have no real problems in your life.” Jeff Tweedy the comedian lives.
After finishing up the Tweedy band set with the upbeat, “Low Key”, Jeff took up an acoustic guitar to perform 10 Wilco songs solo (well, 7 Wilco songs, 2 Uncle Tupelo songs and 1 Loose Fur song). “Passenger Side” was greeted with a roar of enthusiasm from the crowd that devolved into a bout of shout-out-your-requests, one of which happened to be “Marquee Moon”. “Have you ever heard someone do a Television song solo on an acoustic guitar”, Jeff said before actually playing most of the riffs from “Marquee Moon”.
“This has taken a turn for the bizarre,” Jeff remarked. “Normally, I mess up my shows by telling some weird story– you know what? I’m going to do it. I saw this iridescent beetle the other day pushing a turd across the sidewalk. I think it was a human turd. You know how you just know? Actually, it was mine. That must be a bonanza for them, like, ‘Whoa, this dude had barbecue last night!’ There’s probably some entomologist in the audience who’s like, ‘I doubt you even saw a dung beetle. They’re not even native to this region.’ For those of you recording this, I’m going to leave a professional pause here, because up until now, this was, like, the most professional show I had ever done.”
Comedy aside, “Jesus Etc.” was one of those beautiful moments of Wilco-fan catharsis (and probably would have been more so if the rest of the audience was singing along too, but I have no shame), and “I’m The Man Who Loves You” closed out Tweedy’s stellar set with a flavor of the blues. The band came back out for a four-song encore, and all you really need to know is that they finished with “California Stars”. Tweedy, you broke our hearts (and even if you weren’t really trying to).
Nobody Dies Anymore
Fake Fur Coat
Diamond Light Pt.1
Wait For Love
High As Hello
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco song)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo song)
Hummingbird (Wilco song)
You and I (Wilco song)
Jesus, Etc. (Wilco song)
Passenger Side (Wilco song)
We’ve Been Had (Uncle Tupelo song)
Marquee Moon (Television cover)
Laminated Cat (Loose Fur song)
A Shot in the Arm (Wilco song)
I’m the Man Who Loves You (Wilco song)
Love Like a Wire (Diane Izzo cover)
You Are Not Alone (Mavis Staples cover)
Only The Lord Knows (Mavis Staples cover)