bböp Posted September 19, 2020 Share Posted September 19, 2020 Well, it's been a minute since I've been on here — and certainly since I've written one of these — so please forgive the rustiness in advance. Anyway, I'm sure that most everybody who would probably even care about these thoughts either watched the show for themselves via live stream or was there in person so obviously it will be interesting to hear some different perspectives. After months and months of spending virtual evenings with the Tweedy family via The Tweedy Show on Instagram and getting to hear just about all of the songs that would eventually comprise Jeff's forthcoming “solo” record Love Is The King, it was a pleasure to finally be able to see some of those new songs performed live on stage for the first time, and with the backing of a full band to boot. (And not to fear, nearly all of the significant characters — including Basil — from The Tweedy Show were in attendance, either on stage or in the front row!) Even if the setting wasn't the warm, cozy environs of the Tweedys' living room but instead a chilly evening at a drive-in movie theater out in the distant reaches of Chicagoland with all of the requisite elements of pandemic life — mandatory face coverings, social distancing and other limitations in the name of safety — I think it's safe to say that just about everyone who made it out to the McHenry Outdoor Theatre was glad to, as Jeff said, leave their troubles behind for a couple of hours and bask in the power of live music again. I know I was. Not even the very sad news about the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which broke just before show time, could entirely dim the show's glow. Since it was the start of Rosh Hashanah, it wasn't surprising to see the evening begin with Mi Sheibarach, a Jewish prayer for healing adapted into song by Debbie Friedman that has become a fixture on The Tweedy Show with Sammy Tweedy singing the lead vocal and accompanied by Jeff and Spencer Tweedy on guitar and backing vocals, respectively. Especially in light of Ginsburg's death, I thought it was an especially poignant way to start. From there, the full Tweedy band emerged with Spencer on drums, James Elkington on electric guitar and pedal steel, Liam Kazar on bass and backing vocals and Liam's older sister, Sima Cunningham of Ohmme, on backing vocals along with Sammy. The sextet ran through a few tunes from Jeff's earlier solo albums Warm and Sukierae before getting to the first LITK song, the lilting love song Guess Again. By the end of the night, the group would perform over half the record; to me, the twangy Opaline and the show-closing Save It For Me were particular standouts, with Jeff commenting about the latter that it was the "most meaningful" to him right now because it was the first song that he wrote with Spencer and Sammy during the quarantine and making the album had helped them all get through those tough times. Another highlight, for me at least, was the band's performance of Pops Staples' Friendship during the cover-laden final third of the show. Of course, the message of the song is touching in and of itself but also the arrangement of the song with Sammy taking the first verse, Spencer the second and Sima the third kind of reminded me a bit of The Weight in that it allowed them to each get their own moment in the vocal spotlight. So what was it like to actually attend the show? I think that might depend pretty significantly on your vantage point within the parking lot. There were four tiers of tickets sold, from VIP tickets in the first two rows to "back lot" tickets at, well, the very back. This was my first time at a drive-in concert so I don't really have a point of comparison and I wasn't able to check out the view from way back, but I can't imagine it was very good even with two giant video screens flanking the stage. Someone else will have to chime in with their take. I will say that even in the very front there was a sizable gap between the stage and the first row of the audience — probably at least 30 feet. So you can definitely insert a Too Far Apart joke here because, even at the front, it felt like there was a lack of real connection between band and crowd due to the sheer distance between them. (I think Jeff even made a brief comment/joke about feeling less of a connection than usual and how "the cars aren't giving me a lot" and then calling himself "pathetic" for asking for some validation from the assembled autos). And being outside, socially distanced, in such a relatively big open-air space really prevented any real crowd roar that made you feel like you were part of a larger whole the way you might inside a club or theater. I definitely missed that element of the live music experience. After the band would finish a song, you would hear what Jeff might call "a smattering" of applause or whatever, but it wasn't quite the same for me. On the positive side, I thought the sound quality was pretty excellent throughout. From where I was, the venue's PA system was nice and powerful — again, I can't say for sure that was true further back in the lot — and actually the distance we all had to stand back from the stage almost certainly helped us hear everything better. Elkington's guitar (and pedal steel), I felt, really stood out in the mix and definitely enhanced many of the songs. You knew at the very least that the sheer novelty of the drive-in show concept would result in some funny stage banter, and Jeff didn't disappoint in that regard. I didn't jot down any particular zinger in its entirety — I said I was rusty! — but he did joke early on about how we were going to "have a honkalong" at some point and "separate the Subarus out." "I don't know why," Jeff said of the Subarus. "Just because I'm assuming there are too many out there." Later he remarked about how he had had a daydream about orchestrating a honking part of a song before deciding that would be a stupid idea. Instead, he discouraged people from using their horns during the show to display enthusiasm — until the end when they should "just go fucking nuts." If this was the last time we'll get to see and hear Jeff perform live in 2020, then to use one of his favorite expressions, it certainly could have been worse. After so many months without live music, the fact that we even got this nearly two-hour show deserves a measure of gratitude. Was it everything I could have asked for in a concert? Probably not. Was it more than acceptable, especially when graded on the pandemic curve? For sure. Was it exactly what I needed right now, heading into an uncertain future? Most definitely. Here was the complete setlist, as played (all songs with core Tweedy band of Jeff Tweedy on acoustic guitar and vocals, James Elkington on electric and pedal steel guitar, Liam Kazar on bass and backing vocals and Spencer Tweedy on drums and backing vocals, unless otherwise noted): Mi Sheibarach^ [Debbie Friedman] Bombs Above* Some Birds* New Moon* Guess Again* Family Ghost Bad Day Lately Flowering Summer Noon# Gwendolyn* Opaline* Evergreen* Don't Forget Having Been Is No Way To Be Guaranteed Low Key@ I Know What It's Like* Natural Disaster* Love Like A Wire [Diane Izzo] Let's Go Rain* The Old Country Waltz* [Neil Young] The Losing End (When You're On)* [Neil Young] Friendship$ [Pops Staples] I Wanna Be Your Mama Again* [Sir Douglas Quintet] Give Back The Key To My Heart* [Doug Sahm] You Are Not Alone* California Stars* Save It For Me* ^ — Sammy Tweedy on lead vocals, Spencer Tweedy on backing vocals * — Sima Cunningham and Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals # — Sammy Tweedy on backing vocals @ — Sima Cunningham on backing vocals $ — Sammy Tweedy, Spencer Tweedy and Sima Cunningham on vocals Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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