Sunday, December 29, 2013

winter comes

Happy holidays! I'm attempting to pull off the Festivus miracle of trying to report on several shows I saw over the course of a couple of weeks earlier this month that I couldn't get to due to a combination of travel, work, and family commitments. Let's start with Jeff Tweedy's return to the Fillmore in San Francisco -- wish me luck!

Jeff TweedyJeff Tweedy, the Fillmore, December 11-12, 2013: At the time of these dates, I figured it'd been a while since I've seen Jeff in a "normal" show -- that is, a gig other than a charity, all-request event. As it turned out, I was wrong, but for those keeping track at home, it had been a full seven years since Jeff has played the Fillmore, once his band's home away from home. It's been far too long between appearances for this region's devoted fanbase, but I can't really complain because (1) Jeff's solo tours are hardly common these days, and (2) I'm fortunate to have another outlet for his concerts sans band.

What has remained the same over the interim: The Fillmore is still a great fit for Jeff, as evidenced by the spontaneous singalong that welcomed his first two songs ("I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "New Madrid") of the engagement. A singalong broke out several more times over the course of the shows, perhaps most memorably in two instances:

• On the first night, Jeff floated a theory that a conspiracy was afoot to boost one song's chances because it received eight times more votes than any other title, and he ordered the 26 guilty parties to sing it aloud, as it was difficult (for him?) to perform. The song in question was "Either Way," and not only did we hit every word and note, a handful of fans even sounded out Nels's guitar solo. If you read this blog regularly, you may know that I love "Either Way," and I frequently lament its lack of representation in the live show. I guess Jeff gave us a hint on why it isn't aired more often, but once again, I hope our vocal display makes him rethink his stance on the tune.

• On the second night, Jeff took notice of a young boy at the front of the stage and sort of gave him the third degree. Ultimately, he got a request out of the kid, "Misunderstood." The twist on this song hit when we got to the "nothing"s, as Jeff opted for understatement instead of the typical catharsis and rage. You could hear every single under-the-breath utterance of the refrain in the room.

A band like Wilco has never had any bona fide hits, as Jeff asserts, but it's pretty easy to come up with a list of fan favorites, and you could probably argue for the ubiquity of certain album tracks. In terms of hearing rare tracks, I have no reason to complain, but the song selection over the two nights even took me by surprise. Technically, I hadn't heard three of the songs in an acoustic setting before: "One True Vine," "Art of Almost," and "God" -- OK, that last one is a bit of a cheat since it's a cover, but it also happens to be a song I love, even with Jeff's amended lyrics ("I don't believe in Garcia ... I just believe in Wilco and me").

In case the idea of messing with John Lennon's lyrics bothers you, perhaps you'll take some solace in Jeff unexpectedly rewriting his own, when he inadvertently added an "s" to a line in "Please Tell My Brothers," sang out "Please tell my fathers," and in the process, turned it into both a gigglefest and an anthem for the new normal. Can it please be the theme song to the inevitable "My Two Dads" reboot?

Music is most of the story at a Jeff Tweedy show, but banter should get a mention too. On the first night, Jeff likened us to a cult and tried to convince us to bring him diamonds and Cheez-Its -- and some people obliged (for the Cheez-Its) on the second night, though Jeff brought his own props as well. Once more on the novelty tip, I'll mention that I heard a new-to-me story, as told by Jeff: the night Chuck Berry visited Mississippi Nights. Apparently, he dressed to the nines and was accompanied by a pair of ladies, but left after Soul Asylum, thus missing Husker Du. This anecdote in turn led to Jeff's musings about his wardrobe choices, angst, and regrets as a teenager -- because it was that kind of a night.

Jeff Tweedy, the Fillmore, December 11-12, 2013

Old friend and colleague Scott McCaughey opened both nights with songs from his illustrious career, including a handful of tracks from the Minus 5/Wilco collaboration. He may have been the instigator behind "God," as well as the other British Invasion track "Oklahoma USA" -- long missing from Jeff's solo shows. I wouldn't give him as much credit for Doug Sahm's "Give Back the Key to My Heart," but it was a fantastic off-PA selection and show closer. On the second night, that honor fell to old favorite "Dreamer in My Dreams," in its rambling, bleak, slapdash, seven-verse glory.

See also:
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» in the beginning, we closed our eyes