Spokane, you made it weird.
Not all of Spokane, mind you, but the small coterie of loudmouth Jeff Tweedy fanboys sprinkled throughout the Bing Crosby Theater Wednesday night among the hundreds who just wanted to hear the Wilco frontman sing some songs and tell some stories.
Especially That One Guy. That One Guy who attendees will remember for being the first to get under Tweedy's skin when he loudly started talking to the singer between tunes. Tweedy tried to meet him good-naturedly from the stage at first before letting That One Guy know "this is not how this is going to go." Then That One Guy inexplicably yelled "Me too!," leading to some nervous laughter from the crowd and Tweedy rightfully going off on That One Guy before doing a little speechifying about the divisions in the country and the need to be able to talk to each other.
If it would have ended there, the audience would have gone home satisfied with what turned out to be a mighty fine show of 21 songs spanning Tweedy's catalog, including songs from Uncle Tupelo, Loose Fur, Golden Smog and his yet-to-be-released solo album Warm.
The Tweedy superfans in the house had to keep yelling at him between songs. How much they loved him. Voicing support of his verbal beatdown of That One Guy. Ridiculously asking "How's Jay?" when Tweedy introduced his first Uncle Tupelo song of the night ("New Madrid"). Ridiculous because:
- Tweedy and former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jay Farrar broke up that band 24 year ago, so, you know, old news. And...
- Because the audience member apparently forgot there have been two prominent Jays in Tweedy's life; Jay Bennett was a significant figure for years with Wilco and died in 2009.
When Tweedy heard "How's Jay?" from the crowd, first, he shrugged comically. Then he asked, "Which one? 'Cause one of them's dead."
Remarkably, through all the weird energy generated by fans talking at him and Tweedy asking them, "Are we going to do this all night?", he delivered when it came to the songs. And to his credit, he did ask if he was coming off as a "whiner" when he kept having to address members of the crowd.
Switching between two acoustic guitars, Tweedy played and sang with passion, a total pro. And there was plenty to excite fans from all eras of his career.
For the Wilco freaks, there were killer versions of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Impossible Germany," "Misunderstood" and "I'm the Man Who Loves You." Uncle Tupelo aficionados were blessed with "New Madrid" and the show-closing "Acuff-Rose." There were selections from Tweedy's participation in "supergroups" like Golden Smog ("Radio King") and Loose Fur ("Laminated Cat") and "California Stars" from Wilco's Woody Guthrie collaboration with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue. He played five tunes from Warm, including the show opening "Bombs Above" and "Some Birds," and a winning revitalization of the Noah's Ark story in "Let's Go Rain."
Tweedy hit the 90-minute mark and he was gone, no encore to be had (as he'd promised earlier). Even so, the 21 songs is about average for the shows he's been playing on this solo tour, so Spokane didn't necessarily get cut short due to the weird vibes in the room. If anything, actually reaching the end of the show — when it seemed like it could totally fall apart or be cut short at several points —might have actually increased how much I ended up enjoying it. "Hey, we made it!"
Indeed, Tweedy himself said the strange energy and contentious back-and-forth with the crowd had given him "adrenaline rushes" during the show. They'll probably help him remember his Spokane gig, but I'm afraid they won't help convince him to come back to do it again any time soon.
Jeff Tweedy setlist from the Bing:
1. "Bombs Above"
2. "Some Birds"
3. "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"
4. "One Wing"
5. "I Know What It's Like"
7. "More Like the Moon"
8. "Having Been Is No Way to Be"
9. "New Madrid"
10. "Jesus, Etc."
12. "Laminated Cat"
13. "Let's Go Rain"
14. "Radio King"
15. "Impossible Germany"
17. "Dawned On Me"
18. "I'm the Man Who Loves You"
20. "California Stars"