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Shortish concert reviews (and setlists, whenever possible)

Archive for March 2011

Jeff Tweedy — 3/30/11, Iowa City, IA (Englert Theatre)

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It being well past 3 a.m., and my traveling companion and I having just spent the past three hours-plus motoring home, this post might not be quite on a par with the ones for the previous two shows. Yet fatigue notwithstanding, it seems like a good idea to at least try to get down some thoughts about what will probably be forever known as “The Mayor’s Daughter” show.

Things started off promisingly when Jeff took the stage and launched into the relative rarity “In A Future Age.” Aside from some mysterious laughter right in the middle of the next song, “Via Chicago,” the crowd stayed mostly silent through the next few songs. There was some minor back-and-forth when Jeff asked about the Via laughter and someone said, “Chicago’s funny in Iowa.” And Jeff came back with, “Not half as funny as Iowa is in Chicago.” But the first sign of trouble came after Jeff said, “I love Iowa. It’s not that different from where I grew up.” That’s when a young woman in the fourth row, in a remarkably loud voice, asked Jeff where he had grown up. Jeff, always in deflect mode, jokingly told her to “Wikipedia me; I’ll wait.”

After a funny version of “Wilco (The Song),” in which Jeff started to tell a story before actually finishing the song, as well as several more numbers, Jeff began to strum the chords to one of the new songs he has been playing on this tour, “Born Alone.” Unfortunately he would find himself strumming those chords for the next few minutes. After hearing some more beer bottles clinking as people accidentally knocked them over —something that had been happening throughout the show—Jeff jokingly asked “Is Glenn here?” A reference to Wilco drummer/percussionist Glenn Kotche, of course, and one that the vast majority of the audience seemed to get. Except for the girl in the fourth row, who was clearly under the influence of something (or things), and started to blurt out a series of very loud and somewhat nonsensical comments.

I didn’t write down everything she said, and it’s difficult to fully capture the cringeworthiness of the moment, but her ramblings included things like:

*”Glenn is a fucking pussy” for not raising his hand and identifying himself when Jeff asked if he was here (she clearly had no idea who Glenn was, and that he was indeed not there.)

*telling Jeff she would give him “a million dollars if I can come on stage.”

*”My dad’s the mayor of Cedar Rapids.”

Somewhat inexplicably, despite a few pleas from people seated near her, the security at the Englert allowed her to remain in her seat. Finally, after what seemed like a very long time, all Jeff could say was something like, “How awkward can a show be?” and eventually, thankfully, started the song.

Shortly thereafter, Jeff announced that he “would like to dedicate this song to the mayor’s daughter,” and played his great cover of The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine.” Though it’s actually a pretty bleak song, the audience got a good laugh at some of the images of drunkenness the song conjures, and it was an inspired song choice. Midway through the next song, “Jesus, etc.,” the “mayor’s daughter” had finally had enough and got up and left, prompting a round of applause.

After the song, Jeff asked if she had left and if he had been mean. When people insisted he hadn’t, he said, “I feel sorry for her. I’ve had problems with substances in my life.” (pause) “Not like that.”

The show concluded in fairly standard fashion, though “Airline To Heaven” was played for the first time on this solo run, and was a treat to hear. It’s tempting to wonder what might have been if the “mayor’s daughter” hadn’t derailed the show and some other things (e.g. the constant bottle clinking) hadn’t helped create a strange mood. A person who saw Jeff’s setlist said that “Summer Teeth” was on it, and “The Lonely 1” among the potential audibles or bonus songs. So strictly speaking, it could be seen as a somewhat disappointing finale to a fun series of shows. But if nothing else, it won’t soon be forgotten.

Here was the complete setlist, as played, for the Iowa City show (which was apparently part of the Mission Creek Festival, though the “festival” seemed to consist mostly of unrelated shows by bands who were making regular tour stops in town):

In A Future Age
Via Chicago
Remember The Mountain Bed
One Wing
IATTBYH
Please Be Patient With Me
Kamera
Wilco (The Song)
Not For The Season
Passenger Side
new song-Born Alone
I’ll Fight
So Much Wine [The Handsome Family]
Jesus, etc.
Hummingbird
I’m The Man Who Loves You
—————————–
Airline To Heaven
The Late Greats
A Shot in the Arm
—————————–
Walken (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)
Acuff-Rose (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)

*Opening act: Snowblink

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Written by bbop

March 31, 2011 at 12:44 am

Posted in Music

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Jeff Tweedy — 3/29/11, Rochester, MN (Mayo Civic Center Presentation Hall)

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The other day I saw a headline for a preview article about one of Jeff Tweedy’s recent solo shows that proclaimed: “At solo shows, you never know what Jeff Tweedy will say.” That’s certainly true, and perhaps as much as his music, I think it’s one of the big reasons Jeff continues to draw significant numbers of people to his one-man performances. Parrying with audiences is something Jeff has become expert at over the years, a skill that he has had to develop since some people who come to see him often think nothing of unleashing a stream of aggressively voiced requests, sometimes-weird commentary and other shenanigans. In response, then, it seems like Jeff’s stage banter serves as a defense mechanism as much as anything else.

Tonight’s show at the—deep breath—Mayo Civic Center Presentation Hall (which bore a strong resemblance to a standard high school auditorium, but was surprisingly lively sounding) certainly had its fair share of vocal audience members. And that, in turn, led to some memorable comments on Jeff’s part. Late in the show, he admitted to being “really unnerved by this audience. I thought you were on my side (early on); then I thought you were laughing at me. Now I’m talking like a 16-year-old girl: I’m up-talking. I’m talking like an ‘invaginary girl.'”

The latter comment referred to a funny story Jeff told earlier in the show, between “You And I” and “Far, Far Away” when Jeff had already been rambling for quite a while. First, when someone yelled out “Nailed it!” after he finished “You And I,” he responded, “Please don’t do that all night,” as in assessing his playing. Then he spotted someone wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey toward the front and mentioned how he thought he had seen a bunch of people wearing Cubs jerseys but just realized it might only have been one guy. Jeff asked the guy whether he had been “gaslighting” him and then said, “You don’t know what gaslighting means, do you? The old people do.” From there, the conversation somehow turned to Jeff asking the audience how many people actually lived in Rochester (as well as how many people worked at the Mayo Clinic and at IBM). When a woman yelled out that she and her party had traveled from Boston, Jeff poked some fun at her by saying,”Uh, you know I just played Portland (Maine)? It’s a lot closer to Boston,” and suggested that she wasn’t being very eco-friendly by coming all the way out to Minnesota and saying he hoped she hadn’t come all the way out here just to see him.

When it seemed like Jeff might finally start the next song—he said, “I guess I should stop talking to the audience”—he then related perhaps his funniest story of the night, about how “my 15-year-old son has a friend who’s a girl, who’s not his girlfriend, and my 11-year-old asked him if she was his ‘invaginary friend.”‘

Personally I found it a little difficult to get a good read on the crowd, so I don’t know what Jeff must have been thinking at various points. Initially there was a lot of enthusiastic cheering during some of Jeff’s guitar flourishes, so much so that he stopped to strike a few sarcastic poses in the middle of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” and subsequently said, “You really are the best audience I’ve ever played in front of. You’re really too good. I admit what I was doing on guitar was spectacular.” (Then right on cue, he plucked out a fragment of “Yankee Doodle.”) But later, there was a mysterious burst of laughter midway through “Muzzle Of Bees.” And by the end of the main set, requests were being yelled out intensely enough that Jeff noted that “it sounds so angry when people shout requests. It’s like a mob. … We do have a request page on our Web site. I do look at it. All these songs (on the setlist) were requested.” At which point, someone near the front apparently said, “Whatever.” To which Jeff shot back, “You have a shitty attitude.”

Another bit of banter regarding requests that I particularly enjoyed came after Jeff played “New Madrid,” and said, “Somebody yelled for that ‘New Madrid’ song right before I was gonna play it. It was on the setlist, so it wasn’t a request. Ha ha.” And by way of introducing “Cars Can’t Escape,” he said, “This song always brings the show to a grinding halt, but it was a request. I’m always willing to ruin a show for one person’s happiness.”

Odd crowd aside, I’d say this was one of the better shows on this current solo run. Of course, I’m probably biased toward any show that ends with “Dreamer In My Dreams” performed off PA. But “Casino Queen” was a nice surprise, even though Jeff noted halfway through when he had to sort of sing the guitar solo that playing that one on acoustic guitar probably wasn’t the best idea. On “I’m The Man Who Loves You,” if memory serves, Jeff stopped playing guitar for most of the third verse, singing it a cappella. I don’t remember hearing that before.

At any rate, whether it was a coincidence or Jeff simply decided to ignore any misgivings about the audience and end on a strong note, he wound up playing more songs than any show thus far (26) and longer (approximately 1 hour, 50 minutes). So perchance, did Jeff have a better time of it than it sometimes appeared?

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Remember The Mountain Bed
One Wing
IATTBYH
—”Yankee Doodle” instrumental fragment—
Cars Can’t Escape
Via Chicago
You And I
Far, Far Away
Muzzle Of Bees
Not For The Season
New Madrid
I’m Always In Love
new song-Born Alone
I’ll Fight
Jesus, etc.
Forget The Flowers
Radio King
Hummingbird (started and restarted)
Theologians
I’m The Man Who Loves You
———————-
Pecan Pie
Casino Queen
Passenger Side
A Shot in the Arm
———————-
Walken (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)
Dreamer In My Dreams (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)

*Opening act: Snowblink

Written by bbop

March 29, 2011 at 11:15 pm

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Jeff Tweedy — 3/28/11, Madison, WI (Capitol Theater)

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A couple of people have been trying to convince me this is a good idea since I attend a fair amount of shows, keep track of setlists (whenever possible) and, when it concerns the efforts of a particular band and its related projects, usually wind up posting some thoughts on a certain message board. I can’t really dispute any of this, so I suppose I’ll give it a go and see where it takes me. My goal is going to be to write relatively quickly, ideally while a show is still pretty fresh in my mind, and not overthink things too much. And ultimately, to offer a few details I’d want to know if I wasn’t able to attend.

Forthwith, then, I begin with Jeff Tweedy’s solo show tonight in Madison, Wis., the fifth of seven in a short spring tour. Ethereal Canadian-by-way-of-California band Snowblink once again opened, as they have for all the shows on this run.

As you might have expected in Madison—the “ground zero” of the recent protests by public workers—there were more than a few mentions of unions over the course of the evening. Six songs in, Jeff first brought up the subject, mentioning that he belongs ed to a union and talking about how his father had been a railroad “company man” for 46 years and how his brothers were also involved in unions. Someone yelled out for “The Ruling Class” at that point, derailing any story Jeff might have intended to tell, but he obliged the request, saying with some sarcasm that the song seemed appropriate and that “when I think of unions, I think of Jesus smoking crack.” Subsequently, Jeff played “Hesitating Beauty” by “someone who did a lot for unions. … This song has nothing to do with unions, though, unless you’re talking about one between a man and a woman.” (If I heard correctly, Jeff expressed his distaste for the term ‘union,’ to describe a romantic relationship.) Anyway, someone then yelled out for another Guthrie song, “The Jolly Banker,” which Wilco recorded and released, but has never played live. Unfortunately, the fine request was derailed by some dope yelling for “Freebird.” That let Jeff off the hook, but did lead to some pretty funny “Freebird”-related banter.

Before the last song of his main set, Jeff thanked people for coming and told them to “keep your chins up, and good luck.” When he returned to the stage, he was sporting a “Recall Walker” sticker on his lapel. And when he went off the PA system for a couple of songs, as he usually does at the end of the show, he said, “This is what concerts would sound like without unions.” Then, after a pause: “Pretty good, right?” He turned to someone off stage and said that he was just kidding, of course.

It was a Summerteeth kind of night, with six songs from that record being played. The most surprising were unquestionably “Candyfloss” and “Pieholden Suite.” The former came in the first encore, when the crowd had remained standing and Jeff seemed to want to keep the mood lively. It wasn’t a perfect rendition, by any means, with Jeff saying he “underestimated” the song on acoustic guitar. But Pieholden was lovely, with Jeff doing a fine job of filling in the various parts of heavily arranged studio version with some delicate guitar plucking and a harmonica.

I would be remiss to not mention two other very funny moments during the show. Perhaps the funniest line of the night came when, prior to playing “Jesus, etc.,” Jeff related the story of how someone at his show in Montréal a few days before had recognized the opening chords and loudly exclaimed, “Oh!” Jeff said he told the person that the young people today usually yelled, “Owww!” or “Whooo!” and not “Oh!” “That’s what my grandmother used to say when you she farted,” Jeff said, then went into the song. (He apologized later “apologized” for making the somewhat crass comment.)

Another brilliant moment came a bit earlier when Jeff strummed the opening chords to “You Are Not Alone.” Upon recognizing the song, an unabashed fan (who shall remain nameless!) let out a deeply satisfied “Ohhhhhh, yeah!” that would have rivaled Barry White for sheer smoothness. The utterance made Jeff smile and stop playing to let the appreciation soak in for a few seconds before starting again.

It was an enjoyable show, all around, even if we there a few annoying audience members in relatively close proximity (guys behind me loudly singing guitar parts+insistent “I Wanna Be Your Dog” requester, I’m looking at you). The Capitol Theater, an intimate room located within the Overture Center for the Arts complex, was an excellent space sound-wise, and I can’t imagine there were too many bad seats in the house.

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

Via Chicago
One Wing
Pieholden Suite
Not For The Season
IATTBYH
She’s A Jar
The Ruling Class
Hesitating Beauty
Radio King (started and restarted)
You Are Not Alone (started and restarted)
new song-Born Alone
How To Fight Loneliness
I’ll Fight
Jesus, etc.
Hummingbird
Theologians
A Shot in the Arm
—————-
The Late Greats
Candyfloss
Passenger Side
I’m The Man Who Loves You
—————-
Walken (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)
Acuff-Rose (performed at edge of stage w/o PA system)

*Opening act: Snowblink

Written by bbop

March 29, 2011 at 5:39 am

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