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Jeff Tweedy — 1 October 2021, Brooklyn, NY (Brooklyn Made) [Night 2 of 2]


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For the second night in a row, Jeff walked onto the Brooklyn Made stage around 9 p.m., following a short opening set by a female singer-songwriter (although before anyone pings me, Wikipedia tells me Joanna Sternberg identifies as gender neutral and uses singular they/them pronouns), picked up one of his trusty Kel Kroydon acoustic guitars and launched into the same Bob Dylan cover with which he had opened the previous night's show.

 

You could have been forgiven for having a case of déja vu except for the fact that Jeff had warned those of us in attendance on Night 1 of his intention to play Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You again, only better — and he did, as at least a couple of audience members didn't hesitate to inform him. Perhaps that self-competitiveness set a tone for the rest of the show because Jeff proceeded to perform a completely different set for the remainder of his 100 minutes in the spotlight, including more than a few of his songs that probably aren't the easiest to play solo acoustic.

 

I've said on more than one occasion that when assessing solo shows, it often comes down to how much Jeff really feels like playing. But when he seems to be in a mood to challenge himself, as he did tonight, then you might be in for a really special evening. And that's definitely the feeling I got, particularly when he bookended his main set — excluding the Dylan cover — with Remember The Mountain Bed and One Sunday Morning. The latter, although it had been listed as an option on his setlist on Night 1, just isn't a song you expect to hear at that point in the set. In fact, I'm almost certain he's said in the past that it's tough to fit that song into a setlist unless it's played near the start just because of its long, quiet and hypnotic nature.

 

When he returned to the stage for an encore, the self-imposed challenges continued. He changed guitars for the first and only time during the two shows to play the twin bill of Bull Black Nova and Laminated Cat, which are each guitar workouts in their own way but both of which he impressively nailed. Shortly after those two songs, or perhaps after the subsequent Reservations, some guy in the crowd decided it would be a good time to vocalize a request for Ripple by the Grateful Dead. Haha. That just wasn't going to happen, no matter how much Jeff wanted to challenge himself. (I believe the exchange went something like this: Guy — 'What about Ripple?' Jeff— 'What about it?' Then another guy suggested it might be a good number for a singalong, to which Jeff replied that he wasn't going to negotiate and then told a funny story about how his younger son Sammy had been the all-time best negotiator when he was a little kid. Basically the story involved going to Blockbuster and Sammy asking his dad to rent six video games, Jeff being incredulous, then him asking for four and Jeff promptly caving in.)

 

Anyway, there weren't quite as many visits to Banter Corner as the previous night, but there were a few noteworthy ones that came mostly from interactions with the audience. One came during Impossible Germany when one guy couldn't help “singing” one of the guitar riffs and Jeff gently poked fun at him by saying afterward, "I'm pretty sure you have to leave if you start scatting. We're still in a public health crisis, sir." A bit earlier someone had yelled out a request for New Madrid, which Jeff turned down by saying he had played it the previous night and then adding, "Any song you yell out for me to play, I instantly hate it." Of course someone else immediately shouted for Cold Slope, which only caused Jeff to shake his head.

 

Later, when someone else requested Hummingbird and shared that it was his wife's favorite song, Jeff grudgingly consented to the request, saying, "I heard someone say Hummingbird. I'm gonna play it, but I'm not gonna enjoy it. I'll let you in on a little secret: Most performers hate this shit ... but I don't have the ability to conceal my feelings." Of course he said this with a deadpan the entire time, and then proceeded to share a illustrative story about attending the Kennedy Center Honors with Mavis Staples some years back and sitting behind Barack and Michelle Obama with a loopy, wide-eyed grin on his face and wondering how the Secret Service didn't mark him as a potential threat.

 

One other bit of banter I jotted down came when another audience member thanked him for the Tweedy Show and Jeff quipped that he thought it was "revolutionary television because the real star of the show — the puppet master — is behind the camera the entire time." In another allusion to his wife Susie, before playing I’m The Man Who Loves You to close the night, Jeff told a good story about forgetting to dedicate the song to her at Wilco’s recent performance in Chicago as he usually does and her telling him he didn’t have to always dedicate it to her but then also coming backstage after that show and saying “Nice dedication,” or something like that. Ah, marriage. Anyway, as he has occasionally done in the past, he encouraged everyone at the show to reach out to Susie and let her know he dedicated the song to her.

 

Personally the highlight for me might have come with the back-to-back performances of Impossible Germany and Pieholden Suite, which Jeff explained were the two songs of his in which lyrics (“This is what love is for,” in IG and “I apologize, again and again,” in Pieholden) were replaced with instrumental passages to convey those sentiments. Now that’s a good trivia question!

 

Then to follow those two songs up with old favorite Radio King and a cover of Arthur Russell’s Close My Eyes, a Tweedy Show staple but usually sung by Sammy, was another two-fer treat. Jeff apologized for not being able to sing the latter as “sweetly” as his son does, but I still think he did a pretty good job. And we even got another new song, which I had been calling Say It Plain, but judging by the printed setlist, is apparently officially called The Universe. (Another unreleased song, Hints, was on the setlist as well but not played.)

 

So all in all, there was a somewhat different vibe in the room compared with Night 1. Probably mostly on account of the songs Jeff decided to play, there was a bit less of a singalong aspect to the show — which some might even prefer. And Jeff’s general chattiness and willingness to spar with the crowd might have been a notch lower as well (though he still seemed very amiable).

 

I sort of felt sorry for anyone who came to just the second night and didn’t get to hear anything from Love Is The King, but them’s the breaks I guess. Instead, they got to watch a different aspect of Jeff’s solo work — his still-underrated guitar playing. The only bummer about this show coming to an end is that it might be a little while before we get to see Jeff perform truly solo again (not counting on the screens of our various devices, of course).

 

Here was Jeff's complete setlist, as played (there were more than a few changes/additions/omissions from the printed list):

 

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You [Bob Dylan]

Remember The Mountain Bed

Having Been Is No Way To Be

Via Chicago

Evergreen

Hesitating Beauty

Impossible Germany

Pieholden Suite

Radio King

Close My Eyes [Arthur Russell]

Hummingbird

new song-The Universe

Art Of Almost

Don't Forget

We've Been Had

Ashes Of American Flags

You Are Not Alone

One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)

-----------------------------------------

Bull Black Nova

Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

Reservations

I'm The Man Who Loves You

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thanks as always Paul for helping Yun hee and me feel like we were at the show. Wish we were able to make it back to NY for the shows and no surprise really that they were two completely different shows. Glad you were there and we still hope to make it to the Orpheum in LA. Thanks again. 

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Thanks for the stellar (as always) reportage, Paul. And welcome back to your old stomping grounds. It was a lovely night in a space that's clearly been designed with careful attention to the audience and performer experience. One of the selling points for artists is the private apartment upstairs that they get to bunk in, which to me brought an extra dimension to Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You. Although I guess technically he was staying there, and the audience was not, so the dimension is a bit forced.

 

As Paul said, Jeff's guitar work was in terrific, sprightly form. After many shows over the years, this was the first time I'd seen him in pandemic times (last shows being Radio City and Brooklyn Steel for the Ode To Joy tour), and it was such a welcome return that I found myself not too preoccupied with what he would or might play. It was just a joy and comfort to be back in a room with Jeff. The fact that he delivered a warm, funny, irreverent and dynamic performance was icing on the cake.

 

Pieholden Suite was a definite highlight for me, especially with the extra element Paul noted about the typically unsung line being expressed musically. Hearing One Sunday Morning took me back to my first time hearing that song live in Miami in 2012. And Laminated Cat is also a treat for me, as my handle might suggest -- especially this time of year as we approach the days of "candy left over from Halloween."

 

The last time I saw Jeff solo, not counting Tweedy at Solid Sound, was at Town Hall a few years back. That show veered into tense audience feedback territory, as they sometimes will. At that show, certain "yahoos," to borrow Jeff's phrase from Night One, took too many liberties with ill-timed or ill-advised shouts at the stage. And it always makes me a bit nervous when audience members seem a bit to eager to extend the conversation -- at a certain point, it's really time to just let Jeff play his song, and realize that the show is about him presenting a collective experience rather than an opportunity for extended one-one conversation. Happily, last night's exchanges tended to be of the capsule variety, without anyone feeling like they needed to audition a running gag. (Though I think the scatting guy tried at one point to revive that bit, and his effort was mostly ignored.)

 

The performance of You Are Not Alone felt like a particular balm, and a fitting choice for those of us just starting to return to concerts. (I believe he said he'd meant to play it last night but "forgot.") Jeff at one point remarked that he realized we "have many choices for our entertainment needs, so thank you for choosing the Jeff Tweedy Show" or something to that effect. You'll always be our #1 choice, Jeff.

 

 

 

 

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Loved hearing Jeff's version of the Arthur Russell tune!  The two shows were very different, but perfect when considered together.  Really enjoyed your take and thanks as always for the setlist.  And it was great to see you again!  (Joanne)

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