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Jeff Tweedy —16 April 2019, Louisville, KY (Headliners Music Hall)

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In retrospect, I suppose the first sign that this wasn't going to be the kind of show that has come to define most of Jeff's solo acoustic tour in support of Warm — that is, a relatively quiet performance in a darkened theater with a modicum of crowd participation — was when he took the stage and immediately plugged in his guitar. Usually Jeff isn't plugged in at all, using just a vocal microphone and another for his guitar. But in certain situations, like bar-type venues or festivals, he will plug in to give his guitar more oomph.


Earlier in the tour at a similar venue (the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C.), Jeff had waited until a few songs into his set before deciding he wanted that extra oomph. But faced with the probability of a rowdy, general-admission standing crowd at the Headliners Music Hall, he didn't take any chances on this night. And ultimately, it was probably a good decision.


If the din of chatter during James Elkington's opening set hadn't been enough of a bad omen, then another came after just one song when Jeff — unusually sporting headgear in the form of a KUTX baseball cap — informed the audience that he had "just puked. I'm OK. I feel much better now." Having suffered a bad bout of food poisoning over the weekend, it was an immediate sign that maybe he wasn't fully out of the woods yet. And shortly thereafter, he flubbed a verse in Bull Black Nova (after which he joked off mike, in the direction of our own monomaniacal Vince aka theashtraysays, that he had played it because "I just wanted to get it out of the way.")


The references to the boisterous scene continued. At one point, Jeff confessed that "this is a much more festive atmosphere than I'm comfortable with" and rehashed his bit from the previous show in Chattanooga about how he had decided to get up and perform because "these people aren't going to bum themselves out. I'm the Johnny Appleseed of sad — Johnny Applesad." And when someone near the front encouraged him, Jeff joked that he "wasn't concerned about the freaks who wait in line all day" but was trying to reach the people in the back of the room, even miming reaching out to try and pull them in. A bit later, Jeff remarked that "this is a challenging thing to do, play to a barful of people having a good time," and jokingly related it to a traumatic memory he had while growing up.


So you kind of get the idea of how the first half of the show went, more or less. But then a funny thing happened on the way to potential oblivion: Jeff just started to go with it. I mean, he sort of had been all along but with the sarcastic declaration that "here comes a cavalcade of fucking hits," Jeff seemed to fully embrace the rowdiness and just loosened up to the point where some, uhhh, interesting things started coming out.


For instance, after Hummingbird, he sarcastically declared that "I can't believe somebody talked during my whistle solo; that's like talking during a Segovia (performance). People who can't appreciate whistling should just die — that's terrible." Then he continued, threatening, "Now I'm just gonna play songs I'm working on. Here's a ballad I wrote for my grand-dog. It's a lullabye for a three-month-old Chihuahua." Then he didn't even bother to introduce Let's Go Rain before pausing after the first verse to quip, "Usually I do an introduction for this song, but you seem like an audience that's ready to embrace global destruction. We're all in the same boat, aren't we?" And then, seemingly out of nowhere — he said someone had requested it — Jeff started playing most of the big guitar riffs in Television's seminal Marquee Moon. This went on longer than you would expect, with Jeff even trying to hit the highest chords at the climax of the song before making a funny face and joking that "I'm out of guitar now."


But the best was still to come, first with a surprise I Got You (At The End of the Century) wedged between Jesus, etc., and Heavy Metal Drummer. It wasn't the "This Is 40" version, which is a cool arrangement of the song Wilco recorded for that movie's soundtrack and which Jeff has played solo acoustic before, but nevertheless it's always fun to hear that song and it got the crowd going even more, if that's possible. Jeff even got through the entire song, which I don't think he did last time he played it because of premature applause.


And then for whatever reason, Jeff stepped to the mike to sing the inevitable set-closing I'm The Man Who Loves You but instead of his usual voice, what came out was a slowed-down Johnny Cash-style drawl for the first few lines. This delighted the audience, and then Jeff switched to doing the song in an icy Germanic Nico style for a few bars, until someone yelled out to do it Jeff Tweedy style. Hilariously, Jeff started singing in a wimpy version of his own voice for a few seconds. Then he stopped and restarted doing the song in a Bob Dylan nasal folksinger style, before stopping and saying that Passenger Side would actually work better for that and doing a couple bars of that song in a Dylanesque style. This all took just a few minutes, but I really hope somebody snuck a video or something because it'd be great to see again. At any rate, Jeff finally did play the song in its proper version — prefacing it by saying "This is gonna be a letdown."


Even the encore, while mostly going according to form, featured a nice singalong to I'm Always In Love that sort of punctuated the evening before Jeff offered a couple different choices for the finale — one slow song and then one faster one, or just one fast one, etc. Of course someone yelled out, "Two slow ones," to which Jeff replied, "What are you, a lawyer?" Haha. It was just that kind of night, I guess.


Considering that this might have been Jeff's first true solo show here — another city where Wilco has played fairly often over the years — I would say that there was a pretty solid connection between performer and audience despite the relative rowdiness. Before he took his leave, Jeff even thanked a local bookstore and record store for hosting a book signing event for fans earlier in the day and said it had been nice to meet some folks in the crowd. (I might add, on a totally personal note, it was great to see so many familiar and friendly faces!) If that gathering, as well as the fun concert itself, didn't help forge a more simpatico relationship between Jeff and area fans, I'm not sure what would.


Here was the complete setlist, as played, in Louisville:


Via Chicago (w/harmonica)

Bombs Above

Some Birds

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Summer Teeth

Having Been Is No Way To Be

New Madrid


California Stars


Family Ghost

Passenger Side

I Know What It's Like

Ashes Of American Flags

Let's Go Rain

Marquee Moon [Television] (fragment)

Jesus, etc.

I Got You (At The End of the Century)

Heavy Metal Drummer

I'm The Man Who Loves You


Don't Forget

I'm Always In Love



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"instead of his usual voice, what came out was a slowed-down Johnny Cash-style drawl for the first few lines. This delighted the audience, and then Jeff switched to doing the song in an icy Germanic Nico style for a few bars"


I suspect this could be the theme for the first night of Solid Sound - Wilco do a whole set of covers of their own songs as sung by other people.  It makes complete sense...

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Stellar reporting as always, Mr. Bbop.  My two cents...

First, 26.  This is the number of votes that BBN had last night, per a reliable source.  I can't claim that I am personally responsible for all 26, but I will say that I thought something between 20 and 25 would be a good, likely-to-win-but-not-reek-of-chicanery number.  So there you go, my PSA for the day.  I was pretty surprised when he played if after just 3 songs, and on a smaller than normal guitar (I think a little Martin, but not "the" little Martin he uses most of the time). I didn't even get a chance to hoist the sign... which was probably way too big considering we were all up against the stage.  Alas.  I've never heard him flub the song quite that drastically, and I think we lost pretty much a whole verse.  Still a treat, of course. 

In non-BBN news, the show was tons of fun.  Really loose, lots of cutting up, and really a pretty respectful crowd with lots of enthusiastic singing.  Cali Stars showed up early, and it seemed that Jeff was scanning his "song candidate list" for singalongs once New Madrid got everyone going.  There wasn't a lot of clap-a-longs (thankfully), and what little there was got met with the usual head shake.  He did compliment one woman near the front who he said was "the only one who can clap - she's the only one who's even close".... but then said "but you have to stop when I tell you to". 

There was not a single "whoo" at the New York City line in New Madrid.  Well done, Louisville. 

As we were getting our patdowns and ID checks to go in, the venue folks were telling us that this "is going to be like a living room show", implying that we all needed to behave and shush appropriately.  Those of us in the front of the line exchanged a few eye rolls on that one.  They also alerted us that the bar would close at 8:30, which was an excellent move.  The bar is at the back and there's no separation from the room.  It helped tremendously. 

All in all, it was definitely a show where Jeff read the room (and likely the report from James Elkington that the chatter during his set was really harsh, which it was), and decided just to go with it as was mentioned earlier.  Fortunately the crowd energy seemed to swing toward singing rather than heckling and chatter (again, after James' set...).  Definitely a loose evening, and just a good fun bar show.  Being down front in a pack of great VC folks representing the diehards and freaks sure didn't hurt either.  :thumbup


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