bböp Posted July 19, 2021 Share Posted July 19, 2021 Given that I've been traversing winding, darkened two-lane roads in rainstorms for the past two nights and the fact that originally these two shows were supposed to just be one, I figured I would just combine both shows into one hopefully not-too-long-winded recap. I don't often put multiple shows into the same recap, but then again, I don't recall a situation quite like this one before, either. Anyway, I assume that the handful of people who read these won't care too much... Because of the threat of lightning and heavy rain, the powers-that-be at Mass MoCA made the very late call — an e-mail to ticketholders went out Friday night, just over 24 hours before the show was to begin — to move Jeff's benefit concert on Saturday from the familiar outdoor expanse of Joe's Field where Wilco plays its sets at the Solid Sound Festival to the much-smaller indoor space of the Hunter Center inside the museum's main building. In order to accommodate all of those who had purchased a ticket for the show, the museum asked people if at all possible to switch their ticket to a newly added 4 p.m. matinee show on Sunday. I have no idea the exact number of people who were able to switch to the matinee show, but obviously given the extremely short notice, the Saturday show figured to have more people because there were plenty of folks who either couldn't or didn't want to change their plans. Sunday's show, for which I'm pretty sure you could have walked up and bought tickets at the box office (though that wasn't really publicized), still featured a more-than-respectable turnout but wasn't as packed as Saturday from what I could tell. At any rate, Jeff and friends — both shows featured a three-piece lineup of Jeff with the usual rhythm section of son Spencer on drums and Liam Kazar on bass, with Nels Cline, who opened both with a mesmerizing solo improv set on both regular electric and acoustic 12-string guitar and effects joining for a couple of songs at the end — made it plenty worthwhile for those folks who were able to catch both sets. And if you couldn't get to Mass MoCA at all, you could just dial up the bulk of both shows on your mobile device of choice via Jeff's wife Susie's Instagram feed. (Tweedy Show Episodes No. 195 and 196, if you're counting! Maybe I'll send Susie out to film shows in the future and just watch and recap them from my couch...just kidding.) One highlight of both shows was when Spencer and Liam returned to the stage after a short solo set by Jeff and the trio launched into an abbreviated (sans rap) version of Biz Markie's classic "Just A Friend" in honor of the late rapper who passed away Friday at age 57. Jeff spoke on Night 1 about how Biz Markie was "one of my favorites. Such a beautiful, beautiful spirit. I just wish he could be around for a lot longer. Not many people make records where their spirit comes through in every single thing, every single moment of their entire recorded output. Not many people do that. Not many people are themselves the whole fucking time. I’m not. This is a persona I’ve been working on for 30 years.” And on Night 2, he encouraged the audience to sing along and talked about how he loved hearing the collective voice of an audience all singing something together, which had been lacking at the drive-in shows they played during the height of the pandemic due to the nature of the shows and the social distancing therein. Other highlights, of course, were Nels' contributions to Love Is The King and The Lonely 1 on electric guitar and lap steel, respectively. On Night 1's LITK, Jeff changed a lyric to be "Nels is the king" and Nels obliged by turning in a measured yet spastic solo that really punctuated the song. On The Lonely 1, which featured just Jeff and Nels, the latter beautifully accented the ballad with his lap steel picking. (The full band capped off Night 2 with additional encore song of Airline To Heaven, which was another fun singalong.) Jeff also chose to perform a couple of new songs during his abbreviated solo sets in both shows, all songs with which regular Tweedy Show viewers were probably at least somewhat familiar. On Saturday, Jeff again played the song Hints (with its chorus of, in part, "there is no middle when the other side/would rather kill than compromise") as well as Please Be Wrong; then on Sunday, he went with the Daniel Johnston-esque Story To Tell with its opening line of "I've been through hell/on my way to hell)," and Say It Plain. Of course, he really could have chosen any number of promising new tunes he has debuted via live stream. And about that aforementioned live stream, well, it definitely played a role in both shows with Susie filming from various positions in the audience as well as side stage. In addition to giving access to the shows to many more people, it gave Jeff plenty of banter opportunities. During Sunday's matinee show, for instance, he even spoke directly to Susie while she stood at side stage with her selfie stick and asked her if her arm was OK and suggesting that he could go over and hold the stick for a song or two while she came out on stage and sing because she's not only the best singer in the family but also the best drummer and even trumpet player. Later, he joked that he didn't especially like the side-stage angle from which she filmed most of the matinee show because it showed an unflattering view of his "haunches." Jeff carried on a bit in this vein with his "protests," which in turn caused Susie to give him the finger, leave that position, march to a spot directly in front of him and film the rest of the show right in his face as a playful act of revenge. I'm sure there's plenty I'm leaving out, but I think I hit a lot of the musical high points. I will say that, IMHO, this stripped-down Tweedy band lineup did miss its regular guitarist James Elkington and sometime-backing vocalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, who really add another dimension or two to the band's sound. Songs such as Low Key (which was played on Night 1) and Natural Disaster (which didn't make the cut either night) were among those that I think work much better with the full lineup. Jeff even said during Saturday's show something to the effect of figuring out which songs work well with a three-piece band and which don't. If you asked most people either night, however, they would probably tell you they were just glad to be there, to be seeing live music being played again the way we used to see it, and that in and of itself was something to be grateful for. Here were the complete setlists, as played, for the two shows at Mass MoCA's Hunter Center: July 17 (Saturday) Having Been Is No Way To Be Opaline New Moon A Robin Or A Wren Bombs Above> Some Birds I Am Trying To Break Your Heart* Please Tell My Brother* new song-Hints* new song-Please Be Wrong* Reservations* Just A Friend [Biz Markie] (fragment) Evergreen I Know What It's Like Half-Asleep Don't Forget Gwendolyn Desert Bell Guess Again Low Key Love Like A Wire [Diane Izzo] You Are Not Alone Family Ghost Love Is The King& ------------------------------------------ The Lonely 1** July 18 (Sunday) A Robin Or A Wren Don't Forget Having Been Is No Way To Be Opaline Ten Sentences Bombs Above> Some Birds Guaranteed I Know What It's Like Jesus, etc.* new song-Story To Tell* New Madrid* new song-Say It Plain* [edit/note to self: this seems to have been listed on the setlist as “Universe”] I Am Trying To Break Your Heart* Just A Friend [Biz Markie] (fragment) You Are Not Alone Evergreen Guess Again Family Ghost Love Like A Wire [Diane Izzo] Gwendolyn Half-Asleep& Love Is The King& ------------------------------------- The Lonely 1** Airline To Heaven& *—denotes Jeff solo **—denotes Jeff and Nels only (Nels on lap steel) &—denotes full band and Nels (on lap steel and/or electric guitar) Quote Link to post Share on other sites
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