Thursday, February 09, 2006

JEFF TWEEDY COMES TO TOWN

I had been looking forward to Jeff Tweedy's solo performance for quite a while before the show at Humboldt State last monday night. I consider him one of the best songwriters around, and the continuing evolution of his band Wilco over the last few years, incorporating such disperate elements as krautrock, country, power pop, and noise rock has been fascinating to behold. When I got called in to the bookstore I work at to fill in on sunday, little did I know that I'd have a little over-the-counter interaction with Mr. Tweedy himself, who was nervously gracious when I told him I'd be at the show the next night. Turns out the guy has good taste in lit too (he bought the last few issues of McSweeney's, and a novel by Knut Hamsun among others).

The show the next night was fine as well, opening with Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche. He played a wide variety of pieces-- his own adaptation of the Balinese Monkey Chant, Music for Pieces of Wood by Steve Reich, a song by Joao Gilberto and some heavily electronically treated thumb piano workouts that seemed influenced by the Congolese band Konono No. 1. I'm not one for solo drums usually, but Kotche had both the facility and imagination to make it work.

Tweedy came onstage amongst 6 acoustic guitars and did songs from almost every phase of his work (including Remember the Mountain Bed, my favorite lyric of his Woody Guthrie adaptations). After an uncomfortable silence between the first three songs he loosened up and told lots of self deprecating jokes (when someone puckishly yelled out "Judas!" he said "there's enough Dylan shit going on up here already thank you"). He even did a bit of a Duke Ellington tune as a lullaby for a baby in the audience. A great set, especially at the end when he stepped out from behind the P.A. to the edge of the stage and did an unamplified version of Uncle Tupelo's Acuff- Rose. The true test of a great song is to play it naked and unadorned.

I think on monday Jeff Tweedy passed the test.