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Jeff Tweedy — 10 April 2019, Washington, DC (Lincoln Theatre)

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Four songs into his set at the Lincoln Theatre, Jeff checked in with the audience for the first time — as he usually does — and the subsequent exchange resulted in a joke he has made at recent shows about how people often feel the need to check in with him, which is “like a reverse David Lee Roth.”

 

But what really struck me wasn’t the playful, sometimes misanthropic, usually awkward repartee he maintained with the crowd from that point on. Rather it was the half apology he issued near the end of the main set when he had been joking about — again, as he usually does — how every song he has written gets exactly one request per show and how there’s a lack of consensus about what people want to hear. He had just played Heavy Metal Drummer to, in his words, “illustrate the lack of hits,” and was about to go into Jesus, etc., when he paused briefly to remark that he guessed he did have some songs that were “expected” to be played at every show.

 

“But there are people who come to, like, 40 fucking shows in a row, and I love them, but I can’t help thinking about them sitting back in their seats (going), ‘Not Jesus, etc., again,’” Jeff said, leaning his head back to demonstrate what he pictured that part of his audience doing before making another joke about how people should just write the song(s) they wanted to hear on a piece of paper and then go play them at home — or something to that effect.

 

You might have thought, in light of those comments, that Jeff would maybe have deviated from his program slightly and played something other than Jesus, etc., but ever the dutiful performer he is, he went ahead and played it anyway — probably to the delight of 90 percent of the audience. And more power to him.

 

Personally, of course, I would put myself in the 10 percent of the crowd who could use, say, a five-year break from Jesus, etc., but I totally understand why he continues to play it without fail. I would never be so presumptuous as to think Jeff would be thinking of someone like me or considering my feelings when deciding what to play. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: An artist has to present the show he or she wants to present and if some in the audience are seeing it multiple times and start finding it stale, then those people should come less frequently. That’s on them, not the performer.

 

It’s a testament to Jeff’s honesty as an artist (and probably also what endears him to many people) that he would even allow an audience to see him grapple with something like that, but he does more often than he probably should. He also confessed at one point that, “All the songs I know best are the newer songs. I’ve forgotten (how to play) a lot of the older ones that get requested.” When that led to a brief flurry of requests shouted from the crowd, Jeff deflected them — leading to a pretty funny moment. “That song is dogshit,” he said to one request. “I can’t even tell what you’re saying. It’s probably someone else’s song. Oh, I walked right into that.”

 

Other visits to Banter Corner included some funny observations about the New York shows the previous two evenings. Jeff joked that people at those shows were fighting about whether or not to sing along. “There were brawls,” he said. Part of that, perhaps could be attributed to one especially memorable audience member who sat in the front row a bit off to one side and sang along quietly with every lyric to every song, “which was pretty impressive,” Jeff said, “but he sang with lots of sibilance, so I could hear him and I was like, ‘Goddamn, how many consonants do I have (in my songs)?” Jeff continued, “That guy was also the least self-aware clapper of all time. He was a lone clapper. He would not give up. That’s what I want to leave you with tonight is that it’s all right to give up sometimes. Please give up.”

 

In Washington, neither the setlist nor the audience participation was particularly exceptional from my vantage point. It wasn't bad, just average. In terms of the latter, the best bit might have come during New Madrid when Jeff blanked on part of a verse and a pocket of folks near the front picked him up until he was able to pick the song up again and finish it (with Jeff quipping afterward that he was just testing the audience to see if it had been paying attention). As for the setlist, it was nice to hear Sick Server again. Jeff introduced it as “one of the saddest songs I’ve ever written, and that’s saying something.” And afterward, he asked the audience whether it really thought it was sad and then joked about how he planned to asked audiences what they thought after every song. “I’m a pioneer up here,” Jeff said, striking a sort-of fake “showman” pose.

 

Of course Washington will always have importance for many musicians because of the presence of NPR and Jeff even took a moment before finishing his main set with I’m The Man Who Loves You to wish a happy birthday to influential NPR Music personality Bob Boilen, who was apparently in the audience. Jeff said he usually dedicated the song to his wife, “but tonight I’m gonna dedicate it to Bob.” I was also reminded that Washington was the first place — I’m almost certain — that Jeff publicly played any of the songs that would appear on Warm when he debuted Bombs Above as a surprise guest at NPR Music’s 10th anniversary concert at the 9:30 Club in early December 2017.

 

So in a way, the Warm cycle kind of came full circle when Jeff finally made it to our nation’s capital with that album behind him — and another one, Warmer, ahead (due to be released on Saturday). He joked about how Warm was already old news to the proverbial kids and how “people get a couple of waltzes and they just want the new waltzes.” I guess if that’s the way of the world nowadays, then Jeff will undoubtedly be waltzing on — whether we like it or not.

 

Here was the complete setlist, as played:

 

Via Chicago (w/harmonica)

Remember The Mountain Bed

Bombs Above

Some Birds

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Sick Server

New Madrid

Ashes Of American Flags

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Having Been Is No Way To Be

Hummingbird

The Ruling Class

Guaranteed

Heavy Metal Drummer

Jesus, etc.

Let's Go Rain

I Know What It's Like

I'm The Man Who Loves You

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

Passenger Side

Family Ghost

Don't Forget

Misunderstood

Acuff-Rose

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Thank you as always for the setlist and I’m looking forward to your further comments on the show, bbop. (This is written when only the setlist was posted and I know it will be expanded upon later.) This group is so fortunate to have you as our chronicler.

 

I just wanted to jump in with a few personal thoughts about the show. I rode up with friends from Norfolk and Richmond and it was great to see so many familiar faces and meet new, excited fans sitting near us. From our vantage point, at least, this was a really friendly crowd in a well-run venue, and the poster for the show was beautiful—soft, flowery, elegant. So the stage was set for a good evening from the beginning, but there was just a special feeling in the room last night that I think Jeff responded to. From the moment he took the stage he was met with genuinely warm enthusiasm, and that mood prevailed through the entire show. I always think of the line “half of it’s you, half is me” from Muzzle of Bees when I reflect on what elevates a particular show. For me anyway, it’s not the set list choices but the connection between the audience and Jeff/Wilco that makes a show feel transcendent. You can’t really conjure that crowd energy, although Jeff can do a better job of winning over an audience than most performers, but last night the crowd didn’t need to be controlled or have its course corrected. It felt like we were all together in that room rooting for Jeff and he responded to that energy with real appreciation and delivered a pretty perfect show. Sometimes the magic happens and to me it felt like it did last night. I’m still feeling swoony!

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Finally got my full recap up (for the five people who care about my opinion). Was a busy day, being in transit, etc., but also took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to say with this one. Better late than never! Anyway, carry on.

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Thanks much Paul and count me happily among those who really enjoy/rely on your accounts. I was at both shows at Town Hall and still missed your not being there to do this level of reporting. One note of banter from night two at Town Hall was when Jeff recounted a bit of advice Michael Stipe once many years ago offered up. I think he has told it before and the advice was to give make up a try. What was noteworthy is that Jeff actually did a spot on impression of Michael, very impressive. 

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Thanks for the great write up bbop!!   I care!!

 

This is probably old news (I haven't been on this site in ages), but in Misunderstood, Jeff approximated the chaotic part of the song where the whole band goes crazy, but it was just him banging away and hitting dead notes, and wrong notes on the acoustic.  Very cool and kind of funny. 

 

Speaking of funny, Jeff was hilarious and charming all night long.  While I'd much rather hear him play and sing, I'd be psyched if he did a spoken word tour ala Henry Rollins.  His delivery and comedic timing are incredible.  You'd think he made his living as comedian or a spoken word guy if all you heard was the between-song banter.

 

This may also be old news and (SPOILER ALERT on new Warmer songs.......)   He introduced some new song (I think it was during the encore portion) saying he wrote it for his wife.  He quoted the first verse and the final lines were, "I'm a piece of work, and you're a work of art".  Then he said, that was too sweet so I changed it.  And he left it at that.  I wasn't sure if that was a joke or not.  When he got to that line in the song, he sang, "I'm a piece of work, and you're a work in progress"!!!  Naturally, that line got a big laugh from the crowd

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Thanks for the great write up bbop!!   I care!!

 

This may also be old news and (SPOILER ALERT on new Warmer songs.......)   He introduced some new song (I think it was during the encore portion) saying he wrote it for his wife.  He quoted the first verse and the final lines were, "I'm a piece of work, and you're a work of art".  Then he said, that was too sweet so I changed it.  And he left it at that.  I wasn't sure if that was a joke or not.  When he got to that line in the song, he sang, "I'm a piece of work, and you're a work in progress"!!!  Naturally, that line got a big laugh from the crowd

 

In New York, that line was "I'm a piece of work, but you're no walk in the park."

 

Thanks for the review, Paul! Your write-ups are getting better and better.

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In New York, that line was "I'm a piece of work, but you're no walk in the park."

.

That might have been the line in DC too. I’m not 100% sure of my quote......hell, I’m not even 50% sure!

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