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Jeff Tweedy — 21 March 2019, Indianapolis, IN (Old National Centre [Egyptian Room])

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After all these years of playing solo acoustic shows, how is it possible that this was Jeff’s first such gig in Indianapolis? This is a city just three hours' drive to the south of Chicago, one that Wilco has visited many times over the years and that boasts a relatively vibrant music scene. It's a bit of a puzzle, at least to this scribe, but the locals confirmed it. And what a fine performance Indy got on a night when you might have forgiven Jeff for being a little tired and ready to get home after a long run of Warm shows. I suppose we can chalk it up to a bit of beginner's luck?

 

Certainly I felt fortunate to have made the show at all after initially not thinking I would be able to. I must say that the venue is far from my favorite in this market, taking place in the so-called Egyptian Room of the Old National Centre complex. That name makes it sound much more exotic than it is, really, since it is basically has the feel of the entry hall in the convention wing of a Hard Rock Hotel with some requisite Egyptian-themed designs on the wall. For Jeff's show, they installed long rows of ancient metal folding chairs that were zip-tied together so they couldn’t be spaced out in the least. And the whole complex is run by Live Nation, which of course attempts to extract every last penny out of things like VIP table upgrades and dynamic-priced "platinum" tickets.

 

None of that really mattered in terms of Jeff's performance, of course, and it seemed pretty clear that he had a plan for the show he wanted to present. That helped him navigate a crowd that, despite it being Jeff's first solo show in town, often treated him like he played there every week. Generally speaking, people just seemed very comfortable — perhaps a bit too comfortable at times — yelling anything and everything at Jeff almost from the get-go. In fact, Jeff even seemed a little surprised at the prospect of possibly conducting his usual Q&A session just six songs into his set, but it didn't really come to fruition. (Though I have to say that one guy near me attempted to reprise the "How did you get so insightful?" routine from years and years ago, which I thought was a good sign that this was indeed Jeff's first solo acoustic show in town.)

 

At any rate, most of the random crowd shouts went unheeded by Jeff, though one misheard song request for War On War ended up turning into probably Jeff's most original visit to Banter Corner for the evening. I'm not sure whether he actually misheard the request or intentionally misheard it as "Barn Doors" so that he could go off on a little tangent about his idea for a Doors cover band by that name. Jeff then did a little snippet of The End in a funny voice that possibly was a reference from something I didn't catch. But he continued, "That would be the biggest thing I've ever done in my life. I'd have to spend the rest of my life playing Barn Doors gigs in casinos. Not that there's anything wrong with that." After playing a song, he jokingly asked opening act James Elkington who was standing nearby helping him with guitar changes to go buy the domain name for the Barn Doors and told everyone in the crowd not to steal his idea.

 

So the audience was generally pretty comfortable with Jeff, but he also seemed a bit more comfortable than usual with the audience. Maybe it was just being back in the Midwest and feeling like he was more amongst "his people," but that created one semi-awkward moment when Jeff spotted a late-arriving woman in the front row and joked about waiting to start the song he was about to play until she had taken off her coat. I was sitting pretty far away so I don't know exactly what else was said, but it seemed like the lady wasn't happy about being singled out and maybe said something about having a bad day, to which Jeff then made a joke about how if anyone was having a bad day or hoping to relieve some stress in their lives by coming to his show, they should probably leave because the show wasn't going to help with stuff like that.

 

Musically speaking, I don't know how much of the Indianapolis crowd could fully appreciate what a quality selection of songs Jeff decided to play. At one point he said he was about to play a deep cut and then asked if people would rather hear Radio King or Cars Can't Escape. He let the audience cast its votes orally for a while, and then said, "I don't know which (song won), but they people who want to hear Radio King seem to be angrier. You guys need to settle down." Then he went into the Golden Smog number but, in typical Jeff fashion, immediately followed it up with Cars Can't Escape.

 

It was nice to hear White Wooden Cross again, which Jeff introduced as "a new song that's not on anything yet," settling the question about whether it was indeed a Warmer song under a different title. And Gun, near the end of the main set, was definitely a little out of left field, but apparently it had been the most-requested song of the evening, garnering a whopping eight votes! ("So eight of you can leave now," Jeff joked.)

 

But the highlight of the evening came in the encore when Jeff invited James Elkington on stage for the first and only time on this run to perform Diane Izzo's wonderful Love Like A Wire, which Jeff said he and Elkington had played a lot as part of the Tweedy band. Jeff introduced it, as it he often does with Tweedy, by saying that Izzo was a singer-songwriter who had passed away too soon and that they were trying to keep some of her music alive.

 

I must admit to having gotten a little bit of an advance tip that Love Like A Wire might happen because as it turned out some friends (and VCers) ended up actually sitting next to Izzo's sister and chatting with her a bit before the show. Apparently she had recently moved back to the area — I think my friends said she is living in Bloomington — and had brought her daughter to the show. I guess she had seen Jeff and the Tweedy band play Love Like A Wire on YouTube videos over the years, but had never had the chance to see it performed live. So that was a very sweet moment, knowing that was happening and that they were getting to finally see it.

 

Ultimately, I guess it's better to be lucky than good sometimes in terms of choosing which shows to attend. Sometimes you think you're going to a perfect-sounding venue, or one that seems ideal for crowd interaction, or is just so familiar and comfortable, but more often than not, it ends up being the shows (and places and venues) you don't expect much from that sneak up on you and leave you wanting more.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

 

Via Chicago (w/harmonica)

Bombs Above

Some Birds

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I Know What It’s Like

New Madrid

Family Ghost

Impossible Germany

Hummingbird

Guaranteed

White Wooden Cross

Radio King

Cars Can’t Escape

Having Been Is No Way To Be

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Jesus, etc.

Evergreen

Heavy Metal Drummer

Let’s Go Rain

Gun

I’m The Man Who Loves You

---------------------------------

Don’t Forget

Love Like A Wire [Diane Izzo] (w/James Elkington on electric guitar)

Misunderstood

Acuff-Rose

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Glad to see Love Like a Wire getting an outing.

 

There was a very good reason for that, as I shall attempt to address right now.

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Nothing to add to bbop's typical great recap.  I was at the show last night with my daughter, son and my sister.  We've all seen numerous Wilco shows but none of us have seen Jeff solo.  I thought it was a fantastic show.  Thinking about it all day today and I know I've got a much greater appreciation of Jeff.  Not really sure what I mean except maybe I paid more attention to the lyrics and how a song unfolds rather than watch Glen pound away on the drums or looking for Nels' next guitar rip.  This was really special.  I also came away with a greater appreciation of Jeff's song catelog.  I guess I've always lumped everything together as "a Wilco song", but today I think of the songs as belonging to Jeff.  Something personal from him.  Not just a bunch of words that a band is charging through with great riffs and percussion and timing.  Not to mention I've had "New Madrid" bouncing around in my head all day.

But this probably all sounds pretty sappy.  I really enjoyed the show and came away with more than just another concert experience.

Also, I want to thank bbop for all the concert recaps he puts together here.  Thank You!  I don't post much but I always look forward to reading your updates whenever there's a tour going on.

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Thinking about it all day today and I know I've got a much greater appreciation of Jeff.  Not really sure what I mean except maybe I paid more attention to the lyrics and how a song unfolds rather than watch Glen pound away on the drums or looking for Nels' next guitar rip.  This was really special.  I also came away with a greater appreciation of Jeff's song catelog.

This really puts words to the way I felt after my first solo acoustic show last month.

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Thanks bbop for another great write up.  It was nice seeing you, Wendy, Jeff, and other familiar faces on home turf!  The setlist nicely recapped Jeff's career from Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Golden Smog, Loose Fur, Tweedy, and the most recent solo Warm and Warmer releases.  This really reminds you of what a special artist Jeff is.  He's quite the comedian nowadays too.  

 

local review: https://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/music/concerts/2019/03/22/jeff-tweedy-balances-sincere-and-surreal-solo-show/3154672002/

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