Indie rocker Jeff Tweedy performs at Englert

Last Wednesday, Jeff Tweedy, front man for the successful alternative rock band Wilco, performed an acoustic set at the Englert.


Harry Westergaard, Arts Editor, Co-Copy Editor

Last Wednesday, Indie rock legend Jeff Tweedy performed at the Englert, embarking on the first stop of his 2019 tour in support of his new solo album, “WARM,” as well as his memoir, “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).” The event started a little after 7:30 pm with opening act Buck Meek, frontman of the band Big Thief. Meek was just what one would suspect from someone of that name, a quiet little man with a soft voice dressed in vaguely western looking clothes. He played a set of folksy, bluegrass-twinged music in accordance with his own work and the output of his band.

The audience really came to life when Tweedy took the stage. A cacophony of thunderous applause from the crowd accompanied his entrance. Not missing a beat, he started strumming the opening notes to the Wilco classic, “Via Chicago.” The applause only got more thunderous.

Though Tweedy is touring in support of his new album, “WARM,” (which is also his first album of original solo work) there was a good variety of material in his set. In between new classics from “WARM,” he peppered a healthy dose of songs from his main project, the ever shape-shifting alternative rock band Wilco. If you aren’t familiar, that band is known for their elaborately produced music, often deconstructing basic song structures with heavy distortion, effect loops and feedback. Hearing Tweedy perform more stripped down versions revealed how potent his songwriting is on its own terms.

Acoustic versions of many of these songs appeared on his 2017 solo release “Together at Last,” but he threw a few surprises in his set along the way, including the reassuringly antithetic “Jesus etc.” and “Impossible Germany.” Tweedy knows how to impress a crowd without pandering. It seemed to me that once he was comfortable with the audience, he played whatever fit the vibe.

That’s part of the appeal of seeing Tweedy live on his own. His dry, witty personality excels in a more intimate setting because he’s able to effortlessly build a rapport with the audience. In between songs he shared personal anecdotes, poked fun at himself and took questions from the audience. While another, lesser artist may have had their act ruined by having to replace their guitar multiple times while trying to play one song, Tweedy made it seem like a running gag. Almost like it was a planned slapstick skit cushioned between the songs. And despite his curmudgeonly reputation for advising against sing-alongs, he actively led them in this show, with the audience singing the chorus on “Let’s Go Rain,” and supplying the “ooooh-aaaaaahhh,” refrain on “Heavy Metal Drummer.”

Jeff Tweedy’s solo tour has just taken off. Tickets are still available for some of his gigs across the U.S. if you wish to buy tickets. Though Tweedy is something of an acquired taste, if you’re a fan of acoustic rock music or rock in general, he puts on a show that’s worth seeing.