I was looking forward to seeing this gig for a long time first because I like the guy so much but also as it was held in my beloved Barbican Centre, the best cultural place in London. It had not been too long a time since I last caught Jeff Tweedy on stage as part of Wilco but last night’s gig was different as it was purely solo acoustic Tweedy.
A bit of a dream come true concert to be honest as to me Jeff Tweedy is the definition of what a musician should be: amazing songwriter, beautiful voice, very much involved in the current times we are living (Wilco is with The National amongst President Obama’s favourite bands thanks to their Chicago common origins) and also a great passionate producer who has revitalised Mavis Staples‘ career.
After a very nice opening from US-exile English “person” (as he said) James Elkington, Jeff arrived on stage, alone as expected with just an acoustic guitar…and his Stetson hat. Playing amazing songs the acoustic way is always a difficult and tricky exercise, especially when they are known for the beauty and richness of their arrangements. No such hesitation last night though. Jeff started his set with probably three of his best songs (“Via Chicago“, “I am trying to break your heart” and “Ashes of American flags“) with such a natural beauty and emotion that we were all ready for a fantastic evening. Jeff Tweedy is known not to have a particular setlist and to play depending on the mood. Well, his mood must have been particularly good and relaxed as the choice of songs was incredible, including my best favourite Wilco song (“Impossible Germany“), making it all a superb setlist.
An amazing set then…and a few incredible funny moments taking place throught the dialogues between him and the audience, which was made of a majority of American citizens. Very funny talks about his signature guitar, his hat, how he tunes his guitar or the beauty of not having hits in one’s career when one has to play live. The most moving and funny thing though was when he sang the last verse of the Wilco/Billy Bragg song based on Woody Guthrie lyrics (“Remember the mountain bed“) as requested by a female audience member. He actually did it, therefore making her delighted, and told us then that he should do it more often, i.e. only sing one verse per song rather than bothering to play entire songs! Not sure if it sounds so great when one does not live the actual moment but trust me that one was good…
For those who went this far in the review, I recommend his 2017 album “Together at last” which is basically in the same spirit as last night’s concert or Wilco’s best records as selected in my Top 100 encyclopaedia (let’s be proud of our work!).