Wilco’s frontman arrived in Edinburgh to much fanfare on his solo tour. Jeff Tweedy got the reception of a war hero, as he embarked on the stage. Wasting no time with guitar in hand and a cool contraption, letting him play the harmonica simultaneously. Jeff Tweedy is a notorious curmudgeon when it comes to live performances. There are unwritten rules which must be respected when attending his live show. The golden rule when it comes to his performances is don’t make noise unless made noise to. This means you clap on cue, blurt out when he’s addressing you, sing along when encouraged to. The key to the ultimate Jeff Tweedy experience is to meet his standards during the performance.
Once Jeff Tweedy started strumming “Via Chicago”, the chatter and applause dissipated instantly. Tweedy went 5 songs in without saying a word to the audience, playing a medley of originally written songs as well as Wilco songs and a few numbers from his days with Uncle Tupelo (New Madrid).
Tweedy didn’t address the audience once until the fourth song as he drew “New Madrid” to an end with the audience dying to be addressed. He duly obliged, it was gold. There was immediately engagement, a back and forth dialogue with the audience. Jeff Tweedy expressed his excitement to be back in Edinburgh after so long, but couldn’t recall the where and when he had performed. A member of the audience blurted, “THE VENUE, 1993!!” Tweedy asked the verbose member of the audience to repeat, jokingly attributing his misunderstanding to the Scottish accent.
The crowd burst into laughter, as the same member of the audience demanded a reason as to why Tweedy hadn’t been back.
“You guys haven’t invited me!” he accused, again jokingly. This set the tone for the night, as Tweedy didn’t just pull off a fantastic musical performance but showed his comedic side too. Not every audience is privy to the performance Jeff Tweedy delivered on that night. The audience gave him the respect he demanded to perform his set. Halfway through, Tweedy declared he’d preemptively play the songs he believed the audience demanded from him. One of the best conversations he had went as such:
Jeff: “I’m going to try and play this song that I messed up last night.”
Audience member: “Yes you did.”
Audience laugh hysterically
Jeff (muttering): “she was on the flight back… yeah, she’s off the best friend list… see I keep a list of people at concerts I think I could be best friends with.”
More laughter and cheering from the crowd.
Audience member: “We love you anyways”
For everyone that went and especially for Wilco fans, they got their money’s worth. Musically, it provided an acoustic, laidback and smoother experience of Jeff Tweedy’s discography. Between bouts of nihilism and nostalgia, the crowd was entertained with humor. The set-up was stripped back, just Jeff Tweedy and his guitar, occasionally the harmonica. It gave the intimacy that can be lacking in other concerts. The setting removed the distances that the stage creates with the audience. Overall, a memorable performance in Queen’s Hall.
Image Credit: Alessandro Valli, Flickr