Lovers Lane
IE Calendar

Live Review and Gallery: Jeff Tweedy at Metro • Chicago

| December 25, 2021


Jeff Tweedy at Metro Chicago, December 23.  (Photo By Jeff Elbel)

Jeff Tweedy

Metro, Chicago, IL

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Review and photos by Jeff Elbel

Chicago’s hottest ticket for rock fans during the holiday season was Thursday night’s show at Metro. Jeff Tweedy and his band did not disappoint during the second of two concerts, performing a joyful set that brimmed with a sense of gratitude and community. Club owner Joe Shanahan gave his thanks and good wishes just before showtime, and the sentiments were echoed by Tweedy himself throughout the evening. The songwriter and Wilco frontman acknowledged tenuous times due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, thanking people for attending and for wearing their masks. “This is such an unbelievable treat,” said Tweedy mid-show. “Thanks for taking care of each other.” Lead guitarist and local music fixture James Elkington wore his own mask throughout the performance.

The concert was a gift for fans of Tweedy’s intimate solo albums, including all but two songs from 2020’s Love is the King and drawing heavily from 2018’s WARM. The set stretched past an hour and 45 minutes, with 24 songs. In addition to performing WARM track “The Red Brick” for only the second time following Wednesday’s concert, “Ultra Orange Room” from 2018’s Warmer was performed in public for the first time.

Tweedy was relaxed and informal, telling anecdotes and stories freely. “This song was written for a spider that lived in my backyard for a little while,” said Tweedy, introducing “Opaline.” “Too short of a time, actually. We had grown close.” The ambling country song’s lyrics, however, pointed toward loneliness and isolation. “It’s hard to see reality when you’ve got no love at all,” Tweedy sang as Elkington played weeping Telecaster licks in commiseration. Tweedy was joined in vocal harmony by violinist Macie Stewart, her OHMME bandmate Sima Cunningham on bass, and Tweedy’s son Sammy who had celebrated his 22nd birthday during the prior night’s concert.

Elder son Spencer anchored the band on drums. After performing “High as Hello,” his father described the pair’s longstanding musical partnership that was cemented while developing 2014’s Sukierae album. Spencer enhanced the mellow acoustic vibe of “Save it for Me” with brushed drums while Jeff Tweedy whistled a duet with Cunningham and sang in close harmony with Sammy. The father praised Spencer afterward, waxing rhapsodic while describing the child “that I grew inside my body” as wife Susan looked on from the balcony. “My contribution was minimal,” Tweedy later admitted.

Spencer picked up the tempo for a spirited tumble through “A Robin or a Wren.” The jaunty two-step suggested that not even death could put a stop to such a radiant force as love. “Having Been is No Way to Be” acknowledged Tweedy’s days of hard living with senses of both regret and relief.

“This is not gonna work,” declared Tweedy a few bars after a dissonant start for his single “Gwendolyn.” “I don’t play new strings.” The band swapped songs so Tweedy could play a different guitar while hard-working guitar tech Cash sprang to the rescue. Tweedy explained that the band would skip ahead to play a “song about my dead father,” introducing the emotive “Evergreen.” Realizing who he was standing next to, Tweedy turned to his sons. “Remember grandpa, boys?,” he said, seemingly slightly sheepish. “He woulda loved that.”

Trusty tech Cash soon returned with a freshly primed instrument. “He’s a real bad-ash,” praised Tweedy in the evening’s goofiest dad joke. Elkington’s eventual solo during “Gwendolyn” overflowed with twang and style, echoing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. “We’re going to play all of the hit tonight,” Tweedy said before drawing a cheer at the crowd’s recognition of “Low Key.” The Neil Young-ish and understated “Half-Asleep” created a hushed atmosphere.

There were several calls from the audience for personal favorites as the set continued, but Tweedy shut them down. “Not gonna happen,” he said. “We’re here to complete a specific set of tasks.” The main set closed with “Warm (When the Sun Has Died).”

Sammy stepped forward to sing an emotive lead vocal during Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Helpless.” After the audience’s enthusiastic ovation, Jeff Tweedy turned to his son and said, “You know your mother’s crying.”

The family vibe continued as Tweedy offered the satisfied “Guess Again” and the gentle gratitude of “Even I Can See.” The tumbling acoustic sound of Tweedy’s guitar intertwined with Elkington’s lilting lines while the latter song celebrated the saving grace of committed love on the home front, pointing the way toward something transcendent in which even an agnostic could believe. Tweedy couldn’t resist another gag afterward. “I’d like to dedicate that to my high school soccer coach,” he deadpanned. After a dubious tale of youthful transgressions on the school bus, Tweedy came clean. “That’s for you, Susie,” he said. The song cycle was enhanced with a blissful cover of “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here with You” from Bob Dylan’s 1969 album Nashville Skyline.

Other highlights during the encore included Warmer’s “Family Ghost” and Tweedy’s version of “You Are Not Alone,” the soulful and reassuring title track written for Chicago Gospel music titan Mavis Staples’ 2010 album. After the latter, Tweedy revealed that in addition to her crucial vocal harmonies, Cunningham had learned all of the set list’s bass parts in just two days prior to the shows when her “stupid brother” Liam Kazar had unfortunately become unavailable. Tweedy quickly retracted the good-natured jab at the beloved Kazar and continued with an endorsement for OHMME as the room applauded Cunningham’s sturdy performance.

The crowd raised its voices for a rootsy, masked-up singalong during “Let’s Go Rain,” during which Elkington threw playful guitar-hero poses. Elkington’s twang-bar solos danced with Stewart’s violin during showstopper “California Stars.” The audience sang with joyful force during the raucous conclusion. “We’ll see you as soon as we possibly can,” promised Tweedy. The end of the concert brought Metro’s 2021 season to a conclusion, with high hopes for smoother sailing in 2022.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Featured, IE Photo Gallery, Weekly

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.