Jeff Tweedy @ The Vic Theatre – March 14
Words and Photos: Jimmy Coulas
On Thursday night, Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy played his second and final benefit show of the month at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. These now annual shows are notable for the fact that the first 30 people in line get to pick the setlist for that night.
As the house lights dimmed shortly after 7:30, Tweedy emerged from behind the large black curtain to a rousing ovation. Sporting thick-rimmed glasses, jeans and a denim jacket, some may think he was channeling his inner hipster, but I suspect age has something to do with his fashionable specs.
The prior night, Tweedy referred to his array of guitars as “The B Team” noting that his main gear was already on its way to Australia for Wilco’s upcoming Pacific Rim tour, which begins later this month. Nevertheless, the six guitars – including one 12-string – ranged in color from a light wood shade to a dark amber hue. Despite having six guitars, Tweedy only indulged in using two of them.
As the applause faded, Tweedy began strumming the chords to Via Chicago. The song, which is known for its chaotic build up, took on a lullaby-like feel as Tweedy gently strummed through the song. The Wilco front man also used a harmonica to fill in the keyboard parts. Fan favorites Hummingbird (minus the Tweedy dance) and Poor Places rounded out the first three songs of the set.
Historically speaking, Jeff Tweedy is well know for delivering some rather hysterical stage banter and these solo shows provide the perfect platform for his humor. It didn’t take him long to get the crowd laughing. He mentioned early on in the set that “charity is painful.” He was referring to the price of the tickets. Tickets for the first five rows were $300.
Fans who submitted song requests while in line also wrote down questions for Tweedy to answer throughout the show. One fan asked Jeff who his favorite hip-hop artist was. Tweedy thought about it and responded with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five as well as Tyler the Creator. He followed that up saying his cousin was making suits for Tyler.
Tweedy had to dig deep into his repertoire for the show as Wilco songs weren’t the only thing fans wanted to hear. The set featured many covers including I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges), Henry & the H-Bomb (Mott the Hoople), Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down (Traditional) dedicated to the Pope, Listening to the Wind That Blows (Woody Guthrie) and tunes by Uncle Tupelo and Golden Smog.
The guitarist was a bit rusty on a few of the songs including She’s a Jar and Someday Soon. After Tweedy forgot a few of the words to Someday Soon, the crowd picked up the slack and helped him out. Tweedy must’ve watched Dave Grohl’s keynote speech at SXSW earlier in the day because during Monday he mimicked one of the guitar solo’s as Grohl did with Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein in his speech.
The Belleville, Illinois native closed the show with a two song encore. Up first was the “Lou Fest” version of Casino Queen. I would really love to see Wilco play this arrangement live as it sounded more like Carolina Chocolate Drops than Wilco. And that’s not a bad thing.
For the final song, the singer unplugged his guitar and came to the edge of the stage for an unamplified version of Acuff Rose. Tweedy didn’t need a microphone as his voice reached the rafters with ease. In fact, it was so quiet that you could hear car horns honking and the L train rumble by the venue as he performed, a Chicago moment to close out a very Chicago experience.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Vic Theatre
Set: Via Chicago, Hummingbird, Poor Places, Please Tell My Brother, I Wanna Be Your Dog, She’s a Jar, Henry and the H-Bombs, Art of Almost, One by One, Sky Blue Sky, Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, Nothing Up My Sleeve, Listening To The Wind That Blows, When The Roses Bloom Again, Blasting Fonda, Hotel Arizona, Country Disappeared, Can’t Stand It, Someday Soon, We’ve Been Had, Passenger Side, Monday, Gun, The Late Greats, Airline To Heaven, I’m The Man Who Loves You
Encore: The Community Song x4, Casino Queen, Acuff-Rose
[Setlist courtesy of Via Chicago]