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Jeff Tweedy — 23 February 2020, New York, NY (The Town Hall) [This Land is Your Land: A Celebration of 80 years]

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I think that it’s probably best that this review of the Woody Guthrie Center’s benefit show celebrating the 80th anniversary of “This Land is Your Land” begins at the end, with Jeff’s performance. I could instead try to paint a picture of an undersold Town Hall, where I sat sandwiched between concert goers 40 years my senior, where one gentleman slept on and off, another took out his hearing aids during performances he didn’t like, or the occasional sound - and I kid you not - of an oxygen tube that would occasionally dislodge itself from wherever it was intended and treat us all to the “shhhhhhh” sound of forced air.

 

No, I’ll stick just to Jeff, who came out at 10:41pm and spoke to the crowd before launching into One by One. “I put new strings on my guitar, so I’ll be playing with my fingers,” he said before adding “I’m not sure why I told you that.” He went on to recount, as he did during a recent Wilco NYC gig (or was it his solo shows supporting Warm?), about the band’s performance at Town Hall three weeks after 9/11. He recounted an emotional, cathartic night of music which ended rather unfortunately for one band member... “I won’t say who,” Jeff teased, “he’s not in the band anymore... ok it was Leroy.” As Jeff told it, Leroy was walking back to his hotel room after the show when a man put his arm around him and demanded his wallet. The mugger justified: “if we don’t keep doing what we do, the terrorists win.”

 

“I don’t think that I could’ve written this next song without Woody Guthrie,” Jeff continued, while strumming the intro to Please Tell My Brother. “I think getting to write music to his words taught me how to look for a certain kind of truth, it’s a low hanging truth that everyone looks past all the time. This is one of the only songs of my own where I feel like I captured enough of it to make my mom and dad cry.”

 

As he’s known to do, Jeff also joked about his ability to “bring some of the Tweedy sadness.” He explained that when he converted to Judaism he took the Hebrew name Shlomo, which sounds like “slow mo.” “It’s appropriate and I like it,” he said.

 

Musically, Cali Stars was certainly one of the oddest live iterations I’ve heard. Topped only, perhaps, by the evening’s grand finale of “This Land is your Land” where no one seemed to know the words or who was supposed to sing what. It was not the “!” that it could’ve been, but the gesture was heartfelt and maybe that’s what matters most.

 

One By One

Please Tell My Brother

Remember the Mountain Bed

Christ for President

Hoodoo Voodoo

California Stars*

This Land is Your Land^

 

*Joan Osborne on backing vocals and various musicians playing behind Jeff

 

^Most of the night’s performers traded verses

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For the one of you that might be interested, Haley Heynderickx’s set:

 

The Water is Wide (Seeger)

Oregon Trails (Guthrie)

My Peace (Guthrie)

Drinking Song

Bug Collector

Rambling Woman

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For the one of you that might be interested, Haley Heynderickx’s set:

 

The Water is Wide (Seeger)

Oregon Trails (Guthrie)

My Peace (Guthrie)

Drinking Song

Bug Collector

Rambling Woman

Thanks, man! (And for the report on Jeff’s set as well. Haha). It sounds like kind of a weird night, but sounds like Jeff’s banter and getting to see Haley made it worth the trip. I hope so, at least...

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Thanks, man! (And for the report on Jeff’s set as well. Haha). It sounds like kind of a weird night, but sounds like Jeff’s banter and getting to see Haley made it worth the trip. I hope so, at least...

 

Totally! I'd be remiss to not mention that the show kicked off with Tony Trischka and Aoife O'Donovan playing the Carter Family. The show definitely had some special moments.

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