This was our second year in a row checking out one of Jeff Tweedy’s solo live shows that benefit the Near North Montessori School where his son goes. He’s been doing it for eight years now, and has raised a lot of money for scholarships toward children’s education. It’s a great two-night event at The Vic-for fans of music and philanthropy alike.
If you’re not familiar with these shows, it’s a little different than a normal night. The first thirty people in line get to decide the set list, so anything can happen. Tweedy also takes some questions in writing ahead of time that he’ll answer in between songs. Everything is very laid back, and often there are songs that get messed up tried again or else aborted entirely with a shrug and an apology.
On this particular night Tweedy came out with his shaggy hair and shabby denim jacket, bearded and bespectacled. He’s a really jovial frontman at every show I’ve seen, but particularly in his solo sets. He makes a lot of self-deprecating jokes and gets into it with the crowd a bit. Tonight he called a guy an “asshole” because the guy gave his rendition of the song the guy requested a B+. He quickly backtracked and said that the comment “wasn’t very Montessori” of him.
My favorite funny little story came when he read a fan question. The question was: “What celebrity would you want to swap wives with on Celebrity Wifeswap?” Tweedy gave it a lot of thought before replying, “Barney Frank.” He then quickly picked up his guitar and started a new song. Another funny moment came later when, during his cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Banks Of The Royal Canal,” his harmonica holder was too big for him to use. He tried it out to little effect. After the first chorus he stopped playing and made a spontaneous modification to the metal by putting it on the floor and bending into a more functional shape with his hands.
The set list for the night was wildly different from last year’s show, which I suppose is the point of letting people choose the songs. Only one Uncle Tupelo song this time out. Tweedy played two songs by Mavis Staples (one off her last record and one from the soon-to-be released follow-up, both produced by Tweedy), two by Bob Dylan, one Beatles song, and one each by Bill Fay, Ian Hunter, and Rabbit Brown. My collection below is surely out of order, and there were two that I missed or didn’t know the titles (I was trying to write down every song, but it was dark and I couldn’t see anything).
Tomorrow night’s show is sold out, but keep your ear to the ground for the show announcement next year. If you’re a Wilco superfan, it is surely worth the $75 ticket price, plus whatever it would cost to get you to Chicago. I didn’t take any videos or anything, but here’s one I found of my favorite performance from last year’s show that I went to. (UPDATED: I fixed my setlist by copying the one posted by bbop over on viachicago.com Thanks!)
Wilco (the song) (“Jeff Tweedy solo will love you baby…”)
One Sunday Morning
The Long Cut
Message From Mid-Bar (“spoken word” version)
Pot Kettle Black
Please Be Patient With Me
[The Community Song (sung twice)]
I’m Only Sleeping [The Beatles]
Why Would You Wanna Live
[The Community Song]
Simple Twist Of Fate [Bob Dylan]
The Auld Triangle [traditional]
Bull Black Nova (started and restarted)
Laminated Cat (aka Not For The Season)
James Alley Blues [Richard “Rabbit” Brown]
You Are Not Alone
Let’s Not Get Carried Away (“spoken word” version; fragment only)
What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? [Washington Phillips]
[The Community Song (sung three times)]
I Wish I Was Your Mother [Mott The Hoople]
Theologians (“…dedicated to the new pope”)
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)
One funny thing I forgot above: When Tweedy was reading the lyrics from “Message From Mid-Bar (because they were too horrible for him to sing) he got to one line and said its the one he’s most proud of-“Hate will save the dolphins.” Huge laugh from the audience as he went on to say that there’s a guy who goes to a lot of shows that always holds up a sign with that line on it. He’ll hold it up until Tweedy acknowledges him, and then sets it down for the rest of the show. Probably not true, but I hope it is.