You could feel the buzz in the lobby, in the Link Gallery hallway, and standing outside the auditorium. Everyone who arrived for Jeff Tweedy’s sold out show at the DCA radiated energy and excitement.
It followed us upstairs to our seats and couldn’t be tamed even when the lights lowered. The roar of the crowd when Tweedy stepped on stage reverberated through us and pulsed in what became, through the course of the show, a large but intimate space where some amazing music happened.
To say that only I had high expectations would be a lie. We all had them. And Tweedy rose to the occasion. His lyrics were powerful as ever, and all the more pronounced in the solo acoustic concert.
The tone of his songs range from folky, happy, in love, to darker, haunting, maybe a little frightening. With only his voice and a guitar (he had six on stage) ringing through the auditorium songs like “Deeper Down,” off Wilco’s 2009 self-titled album, Wilco, were striking:
By the end of the bout, he was punched out
Fists capsized, muscles shouting
He felt the insult of a kiss
Never played in a solo show, Tweedy commented, only to start a witty back-and-forth with the audience about technology: “Is someone googling that right now?”
Tweedy wavered over “Hummingbird,” off of his 2005 album, Kicking Television. To play or not to play? Getting no better recommendations from the audience he committed to the song, and lyrics like:
his goal in life was to be an echo
riding alone, town after town, toll after toll
a fixed bayonet through the great southwest
to forget her
were somehow made all the more potent and provocative by the pause before the song, and then the decision to play. Perhaps we were all listening a little harder. In general, the audience was treated to a much more personal experience, watching him sing the songs he’s written, on stage by himself.
The audience was calling out to him every chance they got, eventually drawing him out and eliciting the comical response, “It’s okay. We can talk,” from Tweedy.
Maybe it was the intimate setting and the calls from his adoring fans, but he continued to talk to us throughout the show, doing impressions of J-Lo from American Idol, and making jokes about how he could never be on the show.
He was witty, charming, and smart in his talk and that reflected back and informed on the songs. We didn’t just hear Tweedy’s music; we briefly got to meet the man behind the songs.
After a song called, “Pecan Pie,” the jist of which was that he loved Pecan pie and he loved his woman, and wouldn’t it be great if he could have both at once? I thought, I love Pecan pie too, Jeff Tweedy!
But that’s just it: sometimes his lyrics are absolutely simple, maybe funny, definitely touching. His anecdotes, like telling the audience that he had to comment every time he heard a “smattering” of something, like applause, kept us engaged and smiling the entire time.
By the end of the show, which came all too quickly, the crowd roared into a standing ovation to get Tweedy back onstage. He played a relatively lengthy encore – no complaints here – that climaxed when he got a sixth guitar and went off mic.
Out on the front of the stage, he sang a couple of songs, making jokes about the people standing in the first row and commenting that’s how it would’ve been in the olden days of Fish Creek.
After the show, a friend of mine said to me, “That was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in a long time. It was cool that he talked to us so much. I’ve seen him play in Chicago and he’s not usually so chatty.”
A uniquely memorable concert at the DCA, surpassing my expectations and leaving me with a sense of wonder, and itching to buy the latest Wilco album.