Jeff Tweedy returned to ACL Live for what was the latest of his many appearances on the long running program. However, instead of performing with Wilco, Tweedy returned with, well…Tweedy, his new solo project.
The band, which consisted of guitarist Jim Elkington, bassist Darin Gray, multi-instrumentalist Liam Cunningham, and Tweedy’s son Spencer on drums, ripped through an hour’s worth of material from the upcoming album Sukierae to open the show. They were also joined by Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe from Lucius, who provided precise, beautiful harmonies. Songs such as “Down From Above” and “Diamond Light” exhibited the krautrock influence that Wilco has been playing with as of late. However, other songs exhibited a more traditional sense of songwriting and melody that helped Tweedy cement his reputation as a brilliant singer-songwriter. Tweedy’s distinct lyrical style and voice held the varying strands together and kept the audience captivated with the brand new songs.
On stage, Tweedy is keenly self-aware and often sarcastic. To his decision to open the first hour of the set with brand new material, he dryly remarked “That’s always fun at a concert.” There were moments of sincerity, especially among his band. He mentioned that Gray and him had known each other since they were 15. “We’re finally in a band together!,” he chuckled. And of course, there was plenty of fatherly pride for his 18 year old son Spencer, who was the other star of the show. The audience clearly loved the chemistry between them.
The latter half of the show mostly consisted of Tweedy and an acoustic guitar, a kind of olive branch for people who wanted to hear the classics. Indeed, even without Wilco’s instrumentation, “Via Chicago” and “Jesus Etc.” were moving, the latter supplemented with Laessig and Wolfe’s harmonies. It was also fun and loose, with a couple of botched moments that proved endearing rather than deflating. “Where’s Andrew Bird when you need him?” Tweedy laughed, after a particularly strained whistle solo.
The band returned for “Give Back They Key To My Heart” (a song he recorded with Uncle Tupelo in Austin twenty years ago) and “California Stars,” before Tweedy closed the two hour show with the Wilco classic “Misunderstood” with by himself. The crowd, who had been reverent and polite through the show, went home happy. Jeff Tweedy’s first solo album is sure to be a hit. Look out for this episode to air on PBS in the fall.
* Live photos courtesy of KLRU. All photos below by Scott Newton.