jeff tweedy solo
ulster performing arts center
kingston, ny 18 november 2005
I am not exactly a worshipful Tweedy disciple. I loved Uncle Tupelo but early Wilco didn’t do a ton for me, and to be honest, I like the most recent Wilco output better — or it’s probably more correct to say that it just speaks to me more now. It’s contextual. Early Wilco hardly sucks, it just wasn’t what I was looking for then.
But Tweedy can give me a shot in the arm in an inspirational sense, from the perspective of watching the artist work, and although I got shut out of the free NYC shows and didn’t have the time to go wait in a standby line, I decided that a two-hour drive upstate to Kingston (just outside of Woodstock) would be a worthwhile investment.
So I come to this from a whole different mindset than your average Wilco fan, because I am such a tourist, I do not have the years of emotional resonance attached to the songs that they do. I know what I like and I pretty much like hearing anything. The setlists have been rich and expansive and exploratory (it was the posting of one such setlist that made me wake up and say, ‘I really need to go see one of these’).
The theater was tiny, the audience mostly attentive, and it being the last show in the US, a huge sense of relief manifesting itself by way of relaxation. He was glad he did it but he was also glad it was (almost) over. Voluble, personable, dealing with the acolytes and the morons with equal good humor. Dude was funny. Chatty. Sharing a story about how Tupelo played this very theater, and they rehearsed for a couple of days before the tour started. In the middle of one of the rehearsals, Rick Danko walks in, and he found himself unable to function with Rick fucking Danko standing there watching him. So he walks over to Danko and tells him that. Danko: “That’s cool, man. Always stay desperate!”
He’s a fucking great guitar player, or I guess ‘can be’ is the qualifier, but acoustic solo you got nothing to hide behind so either the chops are there or they’re not. They are.
And the songs. Moments of introspection and revelation, some wistful, some happy. The singalong to “California Stars” still echoes in my head three days later.
Just when I thought we were done, it was enjoyable, worth the drive, all of that, someone in “the abyss” (as Tweedy mentioned he referred to the audience in an universal sense, since he couldn’t see anybody) launched into a lengthy story that no one quite understood, but what Tweedy got out of it was that she wanted him to play “Misunderstood.” Pause. “But without all the drums, BOOM, bang?”
So he does it. Solo. Acoustic. No thundrous intro. And you are on the edge of your seat, wide awake, riveted, picking your jaw up off the floor, “If you still love rock and roll” giving you the sharp intake of breath, lump in throat, unintentionally masterful and the spontaneity of the selection making the depth of the performance that much more meaningful.
One moment. Not that the other moments were not worthy, but this one was for the ages.
Setlist [Via WilcoBase]
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