Jeff Tweedy sure does make a lot of headlines for the wrong reasons. Seriously, let’s name off a few: He fired former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer in favor of Glenn Kotche. He kicked Jay Bennett to the curb. He became addicted to prescription painkillers. He entered rehab. He tried to steal Jay Farrar’s girlfriend back in the Uncle Tupelo days. And just last week—Jeff Tweedy attacks and punches a fan! Holy crap, doesn’t sound like a guy that should be playing a solo acoustic show in front of a bunch of college kids in Champaign, Illinois.
But somehow, Tweedy is not the drugged, girlfriend-stealing, Mike Tyson wannabe that he has been made out to be. At least, he doesn’t appear that way alone on stage with his guitar. During his 20-song set at Foellinger Auditorium on the campus of the University of Illinois, Tweedy appeared happy and willing to go along with the hooting and hollering of obscure requests of college kids enjoying their Halloween weekend. In other words, he’s come a long way from the panicked and uptight figure that had to seek medical help in the past.
Calmly opening the show with a hushed rendition of “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” a real treat in its acoustic form, Tweedy showed off the ability to take a noisy, arty mess of a song and instead showcase its lyrics behind delicate and comforting vocals. He waited five songs before addressing “the punch,” explaining that he really didn’t hit the guy, and that his “cat-like reflexes” had to do the job that the “Shriner’s Mosque security” failed to do that night. This explanation and forgetting the lyrics to “The Ruling Class” provided the comedy for the evening, one that featured Tweedy dusting off Uncle Tupelo’s “Gun” and Golden Smog’s “Radio King.”
The thing that might seem bare about Tweedy’s solo show is that he only plays guitar and harmonica. He doesn’t venture off to a piano or pump-organ like Neil Young or play a Madonna or Black Flag record and dance around like Ryan Adams, but he does create a certain vibe that is warm enough to get a young crowd chanting “We can make it better” in unison. How about that for a headline?
Setlist: Spiders (Kidsmoke), I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Cars Can’t Escape, Be Patient with Me (new song), Sunken Treasure, (Was I) In Your Dreams, A Goldtoohed Lullaby for Rafter and Beams, The Ruling Class, Radio King, Be Patient With Me (new song), Summerteeth, Gun, Theologians, I’m The Man Who Loves You
Encore: Bob Dylan’s Beard, What Light (new song), In a Future Age, Wishful Thinking, Walken, The Thanks I Get (new song)