Monday, June 23, 2014
Jeff Tweedy returned to the Austin City Limits Television stage Friday night and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Jeff Tweedy has graced the ACL TV stage several times in the past with his band Wilco but Friday evening’s taping was a showcase for brand-new songs from an upcoming solo record.
Jeff Tweedy - Thrash Lab Documentary video via YouTube
Tweedy explained that he started recording the new album playing all of the instruments himself because he thought that’s what you were supposed to do for a solo album. After awhile his son Spencer started playing drums and eventually his solo sound was fleshed-out with a full band of friends and houseguests. Friday evening’s set was essentially two sets in one. The first hour was Tweedy with a full backing band playing all-new songs from the upcoming LP. The second hour of performance was mostly solo, with a bit of help from the ladies of Lucius on backing vocals. Incidentally, the ladies of Lucius lent their vocals to both the full band and solo sets. The evening closed with a full band song followed by a solo number. In other words, it was everything you would want from a, sans Wilco, Jeff Tweedy set.
I know it can be tricky when you go to a concert and the artist plays an hour of brand-new material but in the context of an incredibly reverent ACL TV audience it was perfect. The new material didn’t sound like Wilco material but it definitely sounded like Jeff Tweedy material. The lyrics were clever and poignant the melodies sounded instantly classic and the rhythms were playful. I think there was even a song in 5/4 time! How do you like that for rhythmically playful?
The majority of the set I witnessed Friday night will never be aired on your local PBS but the parts that do make it are going to be magical. Solo, with Wilco, with Uncle Tupelo or even on an episode of Parks & Recreation, Jeff Tweedy is a national treasure. You, me, and everyone we know should see him perform every chance we get.