Happy new year to you all! This post was supposed to go up before the end of 2009, but as it turned out, I had less downtime than expected during my holiday break. I'm not complaining, though, as I managed to lodge the requisite hours with family and get in a quick road trip to Phoenix for a Jeff Tweedy show. You don't have to find out how it went at the homestead, but you can read a little about the Jeff Tweedy concert below.
Jeff Tweedy, Orpheum Theatre, December 27, 2009: Though solo shows by Jeff Tweedy aren't uncommon, you can't exactly set your clock to them either. I've had the good fortune to enjoy at least one gig each year for the last five years, and I've caught him on a handful of solo tours, some of them even documented on this blog. Nonetheless, I had no intention of passing up this show, conveniently scheduled during my company's holiday break and in an adjoining state. (You don't consider that convenient? Would you rather I schlep across two states?)
I'm not generally a fan of sit-down gigs, but it was hard not to be impressed by the Orpheum's beautifully restored details, including a ceiling that shifted in color with changes in lighting (bringing to mind the Venetian in Las Vegas). Moreover, the acoustics were gorgeous, which became apparent almost immediately, when Jeff opened the show with "Sunken Treasure." If you've seen Jeff solo before, there's a good chance he's kicked off the gig with the same song--heck, it's the title of the DVD of his 2005 solo tour.
I'd argue, though, there's a good reason for it. That soulful harmonica, those rippling chords, and the ringing refrain are a great test of any venue, and they came through crystal clear tonight. The lyric I'm referring to ("I am so out of tune with you") is pretty satisfying to hear for any number of reasons, but when it comes through with such a rich sustain and timbre, you know it's going to be a good night. While we're at it, count "So Much Wine" in the same category. The Handsome Family song, in addition to being timely, has a point of view you're unlikely to find anywhere else, and it shows off Jeff's voice as if it were written for him.
Believe it or not, regarding those musicians who dominate this blog, there are differences from gig to gig. I can't say whether anyone else notices these trifles, but I can (usually) hear them. "Remember the Mountain Bed," for instance, loped along at a Dylan-esque pace and not at its usual insistent cadence. Other variations were much more apparent, such as the forgotten lyrics to "Hummingbird" and "Spiders" or the wholesale reinvention of acoustic-averse "Impossible Germany," which sounded like an entirely different work without its signature guitar solo.
Still others, specifically songs from Wilco (The Album), were new to me in this setting. Both "Country Disappeared" and "You and I" stayed faithful to their album renditions, which you might not expect, given the album's extensive production.
Speaking of "You and I," Jeff dedicated it to his wife Susan, and it was indicative of the casual family vibe permeating the entire show--which should've been immediately evident based on Jeff's choice of onstage wardrobe. For example, Jeff shared some wise words from younger son Sammy on the legitimacy of zucchinis--before seguing into "The Ruling Class," go figure--while "Please Tell My Brother," semi-retired from the song rotation, was reinstated by request of Jeff's sister Debbie.
The two women inspired more selections ("I'm the Man Who Loves You" and "Heavy Metal Drummer," respectively), and Debbie, in fact, served as a convenient point of reference for both Jeff and the audience throughout the show. Jeff joked about her long guest list and her general popularity in town. Meanwhile, one fan asked if they could come over to Debbie's house after the show; in response, Jeff offered to reveal her address to the group.
Before the end of the night, we'd get two sing-alongs: "Jesus etc.," for which Jeff requested our participation, and the more spontaneous harmonies on "Heavy Metal Drummer." But the show wrapped up with "Someone Else's Song" and "Acuff-Rose," both delivered without amplification, which happens to be one of my favorite treatments and one that Jeff has adopted over the years for his solo appearances. For the last show of the year--much less the decade--I couldn't have asked for more.
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