Jeff Tweedy, the affable and often misunderstood frontman of Wilco hit the stage at Canal Shores Golf Course on Saturday as part of SPACE’s Out Of Space summer program. This year’s sets also featured bands like Cake, I’m With Her, and Bruce Hornsby. None of them are as tied to the city of Chicago as Tweedy, so it was no surprise to find a huge crowd already there when I showed up an hour before the music started.
Ohmme played a great warmup for the audience featuring songs off their album Parts and a David Bowie cover. Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham shared vocal duty and shredded guitar riffs for about 45 minutes as the sun was preparing to set on the lovely grounds in Evanston.
It was a full-family affair for Tweedy. His son Spencer, of course, played drums, while his youngest son, Sammy, came out to sing backup vocals on “I Know What It’s Like.” Stewart’s old bandmate from Kids These Days and Marrow, Liam Kazar, was on bass. And of course James Elkington (Jeff is allowed to call him Jim) delivered his virtuoso guitar skills. Jeff offered up a lot of songs about his wife from the Tweedy album Sukierae, and apologized for playing on such a beautiful night and “only doing songs about my dead dad.”
Despite some heavy subject matter, the band made it as fun as possible. Jeff was delivering some great banter, calling back often to a joke about a bug that flew into his mouth during the first few songs. It was a constant battle, forcing him to step away a couple times to try to cough it up. He also silenced a drunk guy standing next to me who kept requesting “Pecan Pie” by Golden Smog by telling him to just be quiet.
Overall it was a great night, filled with bittersweet musical moments. The highlight of the night for me was the version of “You Are Not Alone” performed with Ohmme singing backup vocals. After a jokey beginning when Jeff said they needed to play all the songs in double-time to fit everything in before curfew, they turned in a raw and emotional take on the tune originally penned for Mavis Staples back in 2010.