“I dreamed about killing you again last night
And it felt alright to me.”
Those were the first words the sold-out crowd of over 700 people at the Algonquin Commons Theatre heard from Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy during his solo, acoustic show April 11.
The lyrics come from the 1999 Wilco song, Via Chicago, one of many Wilco songs Tweedy performed throughout the night. Tweedy sauntered out of the dark with his long, grey-ish hair slicked back underneath his cowboy hat, salt and pepper scruff hidden behind his Harmonica, black-faded jeans and his acoustic guitar.
Tweedy spent much of the evening playing songs that have been reworked and stripped-down, from a 30-year back catalogue with bands such as the critically acclaimed Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, and supergroups Loose Fur and Golden Smug.
Technically a debut solo artist, Tweedy, who released a solo album in June of 2017, Together At Last, arrived in Ottawa to play songs from that album, along with a few new songs.
For those familiar with the traditional Wilco sound, Tweedy brought everything but. Wilco staples such as I’m Trying To Break Your Heart and Hummingbird, songs known for their instrumental arrangements, showcased Tweedy’s genius with a whistling solo during Hummingbird in lieu of an electric backing band.
Jeff Tweedy has become one of the most critically acclaimed and accomplished song writers of the last quarter century. Penning the experimental but groundbreaking rock album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, he helped drive Wilco into mainstream America. Regarded as one of the best albums of the 2000’s by music publication such as Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, but initially, due to its abstract ideas and not being seen as commercially viable, their record label dropped them before its intended September 11, 2001 release date. The album was released in full, on their website, before they signed with Nonesuch Records in November, 2001. This is documented in I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film about Wilco, directed by Sam Jones, which follows the band during the creation of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It was the band’s next album, A Ghost Is Born, that won them two Grammys in 2005. Tweedy’s effort don’t stop at performing, he is also a Grammy award winning producer, putting together Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone in 2011, according to the Recording Academy’s website.
“Man, he’s one of the best rockers and songwriters of the last 50 years, he’s been the leading man behind Americana for years now,” said Jonathan, an aging Tweedy and Wilco superfan, dressed in a fedora, and possessing the rare skill of not being able to count the amount of times he’s seen Wilco or its frontman solo.
“I can’t wait, he’s my hero,” said Nathan Dyck standing in the lobby of the ACT sipping his beer before entering the theatre to see the opening act, OHME.
Dyck’s parents, Lee and Anna, natives of Arnprior, Ontario, were also at the show, just three days removed from attending Tweedy’s Kingston, Ontario show.
After numerous quick-witted interactions with the sold out crowd, Tweedy told listeners about the drunken crowd he’d experienced two nights earlier in London.
To say Wilco and Jeff Tweedy fans are loyal would be a major understatement. Numerous calls between songs from the crowd directed at Tweedy showed how faith his fan group is. One fan even asked Tweedy to play every song he’d ever written before he left the stage.
“That’s gonna be tough as I’ve written over 4000 songs in my life, man,” Tweedy told the crowd to a large applaud. But to say they are rowdy, would also be probably accurate.
After many more quick-witted interactions with the sold out crowd, Tweedy told listeners about the drunken crowd he’d experienced two nights earlier in London, Ont.
“They were just really drunk; fun, but really drunk…I thought about staging an intervention if I was able to get enough people on my side” strumming his acoustic guitar and chuckling into his microphone before he launched into the next song.
Finishing his first set with I’m The Man Who Loves You, Tweedy left the stage to a standing ovation. Upon return, he dedicated the first song of his encore the Yvonne Staples of the Staple Singers who died April 10, 2018.
“My family and her family had basically adopted each other, my kids called her grandma and also called her sister Mavis, grandma too” Tweedy told the crowd then bringing out OHME to help sing the Mavis Staples song Ain’t No Doubt About it.
Discussing the show afterward, the Dyck family was chatting about their favourite song from the show.
“Probably Misunderstood for me, It’s just so heavy-hearted and bittersweet, I loved how different it was from the album version (Wilco – Being There)” said Lee Dyck after the show.
Maybe one day down the road, when those who matter have their say, Jeff Tweedy will be considered as one of the greats, along with Guthrie, Dylan, Seeger, Baez, Springsteen and The Band.