4th November 2014
Father and son Tweedy’s European tour stops at one of London’s most iconic venues with a show that mixes highlights from Wilco’s repertoire with songs from their recently released album. Craig Chaligne was there.
After seeing Wilco a few times, I was looking forward to hearing their lead singer in solo mode. I had passed on an opportunity to go and see him in Spain in 2008 to go and see the first Jayhawks show in six years at the Azkena Rock Festival. His solo shows are renowned for featuring more adventurous song choices than when he plays with Wilco and they leave more space to display his rather fantastic wit and sense of humour.
Even though I made it to the venue at 8.15pm, opening act Arc Iris seemed to have already come and gone and the gear for Tweedy’s show was being set up. This date was the first European show of the tour promoting the album he’s made with his son Spencer called Sukirae. The album was recorded in Wilco’s loft in Chicago and sees his son handling the drums while he contributes songs and plays all the other instruments.
The show started with the full band and featured a selection of tunes from the new LP. The lo-fi atmosphere of the record got replaced by a sound that was closer to early Wilco (AM era) with guitarist Jim Eklington adding subtle guitar flourishes. I almost found the live versions better than those on the record. After a nice rendition of Summer Noon, one of the new album’s poppier moments, Tweedy paused to greet the audience.
Apart from the slightly over the top stage moves of the bassist (adept at the moonwalk), nothing distracted the audience’s attention from this powerful set of songs. The first half of the evening closed with Low Key, the lead single from the album.
The band left the stage (after a hug between father and son) and the show reverted back to the usual format of Jeff and his guitar than can be witnessed on the wonderful Live In The Pacific Northwest DVD.
Jumping from one Wilco album to another (from Passenger Side on AM to Born Alone on The Whole Love) Tweedy didn’t forget his other musical projects with numbers from Loose Fur (the rather splendid The Ruling Class that would put Whistling Jack Smith to shame) and Uncle Tupelo (New Madrid).
An excellent version of the I’m The Man Who Loves You showed that a good song works in every form. The band returned to perform the first track of Sukirae : Please Don’t Let Me Be So Understood that was followed by Only The Lord Knows that Tweedy wrote for soul singer Mavis Staples. After a cover of Doug Sahm’s Give Back The Key To My Heart, the gig closed with California Stars from Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue album.
All words by Craig Chaligne. More of Craig’s work for Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive.