Jeff Tweedy — 3/28/11, Madison, WI (Capitol Theater)
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:
Not For The Season
She’s A Jar
The Ruling Class
Radio King (started and restarted)
You Are Not Alone (started and restarted)
new song-Born Alone
How To Fight Loneliness
A Shot in the Arm
The Late Greats
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