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Jeff Tweedy — 26 May 2019, Melbourne, Australia (Howler)


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Jeff’s final show of his 3 Victorian shows, and the first all standing GA show of the tour didn’t disappoint one bit.

 

Howler is a small 400 capacity venue in the northern Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, essentially a large rectangular room out the back of a bar. I’ve seen a few shows here before and I really like it, it’s nice and intimate. Having Jeff play in a Melbourne pub is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, so I was really looking forward to this one.

 

No Jen Cloher opening tonight, she was otherwise occupied, so instead a singer by the name of Leah Senior opened proceedings. Think Joni Mitchell and you’ve pretty much nailed it. While personally I prefer Jen’s music, Leah was a nice relaxed way to kick the night off.

 

On to the main event, Jeff came on stage at 9pm sharp, and the same 4 songs that opened Meeniyan were played. Rather than begin any banter, Jeff kept playing, clearly still burned by how banter corner went at the previous nights show! A lovely You And I was quickly followed by a very powerful Bull Black Nova which made its Australian tour debut which was a real treat to hear.

 

Jeff finally went to banter corner at this point. “Love it Jeff!” someone exclaimed. Jeff – ‘Alright, I don’t want to develop a relationship too soon with the audience, I got burned by that last night. Were any of you at the show last night? (about 75% of the crowd yell out yes) Oh my god how many? (most of the room put their hand in the air). Oh well I’m going to play most of the same songs but that’s because I’m uneducated! (referring to the bizarre AAM comment from last night’s show). That’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever said to me (laughter ensues). It’s not nice to say. I went to college for 3 years and I don’t have a single credit. I think that’s hard to do. Take your degrees and shove them up your… a true scholar could go to college forever and never gain a credit.’

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart follows, then the very welcome tour debut of One Wing quickly followed, a really great song. Jeff seemed unwilling to return to banter corner at this point, with I Know What It’s Like, Hummingbird and Having Been Is No Way To Be all quickly following each other.

Guaranteed followed, prefaced by the usual introduction about how he changed the words, and was met with the usual huge laughter. It’s a crowd winner every time.

 

Up to this point Jeff had been very good at keeping the crowd in check, but that was all about to change. Jeff – “Let me consult my notes, might be more songs that I didn’t play last night”. This led to the inevitable  audience shout out for songs. Jeff then said rather forcefully ‘I have my notes! We have protocols. There’s a requisition form on our website for requests, I think I can think of other songs to play (someone yells out Laminated Cat). What’s that? Laminated Cat… Huh. This is gonna take a minute I’ll just stand here until my guitar is tuned (Jeff hands his guitar to Matrix)’. Jeff then tells the story he told in Sydney and Brisbane about the NZ Writers Festival and his friend Mark, which again received huge laughs. By this stage, the guitar was tuned and Jeff launched into a great Laminated Cat, with some questionable audience shouting some of the words (it wasn’t graceful singing, it was trying to shout words at the loudest possible volume for some inexplicable reason, and even then they got the words wrong).

 

Following that, more banter. Jeff –“is everything ok out there? (audience yells yes) I sense some danger. Were there some people singing along and some people not wanting people to sing along? That happens sometimes. I’ve played enough songs where people have been quiet so if you want to sing along with some of these other songs that’s fine with me I’m not gonna tell anyone what to do.  You’ll have to form some sort of committee and see if we can reach a consensus before the end of the show.”

The big singalong to the first line of Passenger Side led Jeff to say ‘ok I think we’re reached a consensus!’. It was a great singalong – I think the issue during Laminated Cat was more the shouting out lyrics louder than Jeff was singing, that’s just plain rude to me.

The next bit was probably the funniest thing of the night. Jeff “I just noticed there’s a mirror over there   that’s the worst!  That’s just like when there’s a mirror across from you when you’re on the toilet – nobody needs to see that! Are there people on the other side of the mirror (audience yells yes)  oh there are! Is that a penalty box?  (laughter followed by Jeff making waving gestures towards them) it’s like the boy in the bubble. “

A great singalong to Let’s Go Rain is quickly followed by Gun (my request yay!) – Jeff stops it after 1 line and says he doesn’t know how to play this song anymore. Someone then yelled out ‘Good gardener’ for some strange reason, and repeated it when Jeff said what was that. “Good gardener? No I’m gonna play this one. I didn’t know everyone was waiting to hear good gardener tonight!”. By this point weird audience yelling out was becoming par for the course.  He starts Gun again and it sounded fantastic, so happy to hear it.

At this point a woman down the front pleads with Jeff to play New Madrid. Jeff then said he played that last night, but the woman wasn’t there and she really wanted to hear it. I can sense at this point the audience is ready to have her ejected, so Jeff shuts it down by saying ‘well it is all about you’ which receives a loud cheer. Jeff then tells us he’s had the weirdest audiences on this trip, he doesn’t know what it is but people don’t talk to other performers the way they talk to him, and brings up the uneducated comment again (that one clearly stung!) and then tells us about the Brisbane audience that lied to him about signs that said no singing (totally agree, it was a bizarre thing to say). Jeff then looked towards Eric at side of stage and asked if had the car idling and that he’s losing control at this point. A shout out for Heavy Metal Drummer finally gets the show back on the track, and the audience responded with some nice singing (though some shouters persisted).

 

Jeff then told us he wanted to play Don’t Forget and stop the momentum of the fun because it’s a song that means a lot to him. The Late Greats then closes out the set and Jeff waves to us goodnight. By this stage 90 minutes has already elapsed, but we coax Jeff back for 1 more song. “Thanks for coming out. Wish me luck in Adelaide! I hear the Crows are doing well!” Jeff says to much laughter, before we get a great audience singalong on A Shot In The Arm to close the show.

So one more show to go in Adelaide. I can’t wait to see how this one goes!

 

 

Setlist as follows:

 

Via Chicago

Remember The Mountain Bed

Bombs Above

Some Birds

You And I

Bull Black Nova

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

One Wing

I Know What It's Like

Hummingbird

Having Been Is No Way To Be

Guaranteed

Laminated Cat

Passenger Side

Let's Go Rain

Gun

Heavy Metal Drummer

Don't Forget

Late Greats

 

Encore:

A Shot In The Arm

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I was at this show - it was awesome!!

 

Despite some real idiots in the crowd, Jeff's brilliant performance could not be overshadowed.

 

His voice sounds fantastic...I actually think it's gotten better with age...and his guitar work is so great. I love how he recreates those complex Wilco songs with a lone acoustic guitar. The way he captures the spirit and feeling of the original songs is just perfect...and of course he also uses the barebones arrangements to inject some humour into the show: "there would be a guitar solo here!" and "that was the piano part!"

 

Speaking of banter, it was hilarious throughout. In another life, Jeff could have been a stand up comedian.

 

It's a real shame though that there were some real morons in the crowd. Most of it is mentioned in the review above but in particular, the woman asking for New Madrid was really annoying. I don't mind people calling out for songs but not when it goes like this:

 

Woman: play New Madrid!

 

JT: I played that last night. I'm playing different songs tonight. You should have come last night.

 

Woman: but you've played all the other songs I love

 

JT: HUH??

 

Woman: you've played all the other songs I love so New Madrid would be the icing on the cake

 

[majority of audience groaned, thankfully]

 

JT (sarcastically): oh well it is all about you

 

[audience cheers]

 

I couldn't believe the audacity of that woman. Who says something like that to the artist on stage??

 

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love NM and would have loved to hear it...in fact if I could have chosen the setlist it would have been quite different BUT I'm also sensible enough to know that Jeff has a huge catalogue of songs to pick from so there's always a good chance you may only get a few, or even none of your favourites...and that's perfectly fine with me because I would always much rather see an artist playing what they want with feeling and passion then seeing them go through the motions playing my favourite songs. Dunno, maybe I'm in the minority with that but it really irks me when people respond this way or even make it seem like the artist is selfish for not giving them what they wanted.

 

Overall though, none of these idiots could dampen my enthusiasm. Jeff is a genius songwriter and performer and this show was another great reminder of that.

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Darryl/eckythump, as usual, fantastic recap, and visions, I could really feel your enthusiasm. Thank you all so much for the details of the audience interactions. You all are painting some vivid word pictures for the rest of us. Even if they are sometimes cringe-inducing.

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