Jeff Tweedy Plays Two Nights in Austin, TX – 6/20 & 6/21/14 (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

It may come as a surprise to many that it’s taken Jeff Tweedy till 2014 to record a solo record, but evidently the time has come, as  his solo debut Sukierae is due in September. Sharing these new tunes with his legions of ever-loyal Wilco fans is clearly the objective of Tweedy’s current tour, which made its way to Austin for two shows this week, the first being a taping on the esteemed PBS show Austin City Limits, and the second a regular performance at the Texas Union Ballroom. Besides the fact that one of these appearances was done for television, what really set Tweedy’s two shows apart is that the ACL taping was free for anyone lucky enough to get in, making it a draw for casual or even non-fans, and his show at the Union Ballroom sold out almost immediately with people paying upwards of $100 a ticket (far more than a Wilco show it should be mentioned). In other words, the Union show was filled with roughly a thousand die-hard fans who really wanted to see Jeff Tweedy.

For both shows – and likely every show on his tour – Tweedy filled the first hour with songs off of his new album, a fact that should serve as a disclaimer to those expecting a full set of greatest hits. In other words, see the show & hear the album. Few artists could ever get away with making their audience sit through all of their new material before playing the hits, but considering that, between Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy has almost never released music his fans didn’t love, he can basically do what he wants. The common theme running through many of the new songs is a focus on the time in every man’s life where he can sit comfortably and reflect on his accomplishments, be it family, love, success, or just contentment. Onstage Tweedy’s comfort with his own life and work takes on greater significance due to the presence of his 18-year-old son Spencer, who handles drum duties in the band.

jeff tweedy (19)

At both shows Tweedy’s light-hearted mood reflected the tone of his new material as he exchanged banter with an adoring audience and joked that his reason for waiting so long to do a solo project was because it took him “18 years to grow a drummer.” Whereas the ACL taping saw the band keeping the new songs tighter, the Union show found Tweedy and co. stretching out a bit more and fleshing out the instrumental portions.

During the taping the band also brought out Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig of Lucius to contribute background vocals to a number of tracks, which accentuated the dreamy imagery of “Where My Love” and added texture to the George Harrison-esque “High As Hello.” With its catchy guitar hook “Low Key” stands out as the most Wilco-like of Tweedy’s new songs, while “Flowering” and “Summer Noon” carry such a light-hearted, airy vibe that the music takes on a playful, almost child-like tone. Out of all the new songs the only one that felt lacking both nights was “Slow Love,” a slightly cheesy hippie mantra in which Tweedy encouraged the crowd to sing along with even though they didn’t know it.

jeff tweedy (7)

 If there is one thing to take away from the new material it’s the feeling of simplicity. Based on his relaxed persona each night, it’s clear Tweedy is relishing the opportunity to strip down his sound, hangout with friends and family, and just play tunes versus holding down his role as the almighty Wilco leader. Hearing Tweedy’s new album played in entirety confirmed that it is best not to expect another Wilco jaunt, because there is bound to be disappointment, but instead allow these songs to grow on you with each listen, and they definitely will for even the most jaded of fans.

Of course, there is no way Jeff Tweedy would tour without at least dabbling in his other work. Each Austin show featured a selection of fan favorites and, in the case of the second night, rarities. As he has done on solo tours, Tweedy played these songs without the help of his band, giving the die-hards that intimate, one-on-one time with Jeff they so desired. Judging by the boisterous response to songs like “Via Chicago,” “Passenger Side,” “Hummingbird,” and “A Shot In The Arm,” that is exactly what they wanted. However, nobody complained when Tweedy brought out the band each night to wrap up with an appropriate cover of Doug Sahm’s classic “Give Back The Key To My Heart” and the feel good favorite “California Stars.” In the end, Jeff Tweedy gave Austin a taste of what he’s been up to the last year, introduced his son, played the hits, and reassured us that life is good.

All photos by Arthur VanRooy.


Austin City Limits Taping – June 20, 2014

1. Down From Above

2. Diamond Light

3. Flowering

4. Summer Noon

5. World Away

6. Desert Bell

7. Honey Combed*

8. New Moon*

9. Where My Love*

10. High As Hello*

11. Fake Fur Coat*

12. Low Key*

13. Slow Love*

14. Nobody Dies Anymore

15. Via Chicago

16. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

17. New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo)

18. Hummingbird

19. Please Tell My Brother

20. Born Alone

21. Jesus Etc.*

22. Passenger Side

23. Give Back the Key to My Heart (Doug Sahm) w/ band

24. California Stars

25. Misunderstood


*with Lucius


Texas Union Ballroom – June 21, 2014

*The Handsome Family opened

1. Down From Above

2. Diamond Light

3. Flowering

4. Summer Noon

5. Desert Bell

6. World Away

7. New Moon

8. Honey Combed

9. High As Hello

10. Fake Fur Coat

11 Wait For Love

12. Low Key

13. Slow Love

14. Nobody Dies Anymore

15. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

16. Muzzle Of Bees

17. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

18. She’s a Jar

19. The Ruling Class (Loose Fur)

20. Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)

21. Via Chicago

22. Theologians

23. A Shot in the Arm

24. I’m the Man Who Loves You

25. Give Back The Key To My Heart [Doug Sahm cover]

26. California Stars


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