Photos by Ty Hyten
The Scene: Breath rose from shivering bones lined out the front doors of the historic Paramount Theatre last Thursday night. Fans emerged from beneath hats, scarves, and heavy coats as they entered from the zero degree tundra of 16th Street. The evening presented a grand opportunity to hear the songs of one of Folk music’s most innovative musicians in the way they were written – just a man and his guitar. Cold bodies filled the theater as Denver comedian Andrew Orvedahl warmed the audience with stand-up covering DIA, divorce, and truck testicles.
Jeff Tweedy: Jeff Tweedy has remained relevant through pushing aural boundaries and bucking genre expectations. Much of the ground he has covered has been propelled by the gifted musicians that comprise Wilco. Thursday night stripped away the guitar magic of Nels Cline and percussive poetry of Glenn Kotche and left us with the one common thread – the songwriter at the heart of it all. Tweedy’s set covered much of his musical breadth with songs from the Uncle Tupelo, Golden Smog and Loose Fur days, a few covers, and a wealth of Wilco songs.
The night was truly an intimate occasion and it was easy to forget the size of the venue amidst the casual presentation of the songs. Tweedy could have stood in as his own opener with his dry humor and quick wit which he used to bridge his songs. The show felt more like a friend playing a house show than a sold-out 1,800 seat theater.
Along with taking requests via the Wilco website, Tweedy seemed to entertain the idea of songs shouted from the crowd. “Love and Mercy!” someone shouted from the dark. “That’s not gonna happen,” quipped Tweedy. Fans kept quiet most of the night, but a few drunks provided fodder for some Tweedy crowd work. After mentioning the start of the tour in Kansas City a show earlier, a fan yelled “Kansas sucks!” to which Tweedy countered “Kansas City is in Missouri…” “That’s a geography slam.” He also addressed the “Owww!” injerection from another over-imbibed fan, saying that he’s always heard but never seen the “Owww maker” with his own eyes until just then, and he was “shocked to see he had a girlfriend.”
Tweedy used the space between his songs as a platform to rant about just about any miscellaneous topic he could think up including lambasting the recent 51st state initiative on the ballot here. He joked of a love hate relationship with David Lee Roth and said he ultimately realized he hated him and everyone like him, “I hate fuckin’ fun havers! You shouldn’t be able to have fun so easy” following with a shift in tone, “Your goal in life shouldn’t be to have fun or be happy, it should be to be fulfilled.”
Perhaps the only request that really got any consideration was the fan who shouted “play whatever you want!” warranting a thank you and a granted wish from Tweedy.
Standouts of the night came in the predictable form with favorites like “Jesus, Etc.” and “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” but also in the form of rarities and covers like The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine” and the Loose Fur song “The Ruling Class.” Crowd participation peaked with sing-alongs to “California Stars,” “Passenger Side,” and the last song of the encore “A Shot In The Arm.”
The twenty-three song set was a big contrast to ta Wilco show. The songs were just there, naked, and unpolished. This gave the listener a chance to focus on the lyrics and see songs in a way perhaps they never had. Whether it was the “Ashes Of American Flags” without the atmospheric ringing of Jay Bennett’s guitar or dissecting the twelve minute long “One Sunday Morning” with no distractions, there were plenty of windows to peek further into the song . . . or perhaps yourself.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: N/A