Jeff Tweedy at the Vic

As much as I like Wilco and everything that band does to flesh out Jeff Tweedy’s songs, there’s still something special and extraordinary about seeing Tweedy perform a solo concert. It’s strange how his music flows along these two parallel paths: acoustic music, usually heard only in concert, and band arrangements of the same songs, heard in studio recordings and Wilco concerts.

Tweedy played two solo gigs for a variety of charities over the weekend at Chicago’s Vic Theatre, and I caught the second of these shows, on Saturday (Feb. 14). Tweedy mostly played a set of songs requested by the first 30 people who were standing in line outside the theater. And as he noted, those people tend to be the geekiest of fans, so their requests skewed strongly toward obscure Tweedy songs not found on the main Wilco albums. It was a B-side sort of concert, which was fine with me. It’s cool to hear some of these rarely played tunes.

Tweedy’s guitar playing and singing were in fine form. I especially enjoyed “Spiders (kidsmoke),” which Tweedy played in a streamlined arrangement much shorter and more direct than the epic krautrock version that ended up on the album A Ghost Is Born. I love this song in all its incarnations, but hearing it again in its acoustic form was a vivid reminder of the song’s roots.

We heard a couple of new songs, which will apparently be on the Wilco album coming out this summer. Tweedy joked that the band is thinking of calling the record either Diver Down or Van Halen II.

Tweedy also played several covers, including Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” which he has been doing lately. I always associated Wilco and Radiohead for some reason — maybe just because they are two popular bands, one from the U.S. and one from the U.K., that are constantly pushing their music in new directions — and so it felt great to hear Tweedy playing a song normally associated with Thom Yorke. He made it sound like a Tweedy song, hitting those high notes in his own distinctive hoarse falsetto. The other covers included the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which Uncle Tupelo recorded years back, Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” and that old Tweedy favorite, Bill Fay’s “Be Not So Fearful.”

Like every Tweedy solo concert, this one featured more than its share of shouted song requests and comments from the audience, including one obviously drunken joker who twice bellowed out a request for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” That prompted some cutting responses from Tweedy, who knows how to handle a heckler. (“Guys who yell out things at rock concerts don’t ever get laid,” he noted.) Still, Tweedy’s replies only seemed to encourage more ridiculous shouts from some parts of the crowd. As much as I enjoy seeing Tweedy banter with his fans, it would be nice to get through at least half of a concert without so much yacking.

According to the amazingly complete and interactive Wilco/Tweedy set-list database at, Tweedy has been ending all of his recent solo shows by stepping up the front lip of the stage and playing at least one song without the usual amplification. On Saturday, the song that got this treatment was “Dreamer in My Dreams.” Singing without a mike is one way to get the crowd to shut up.

New song (“You and I…”)
One By One
More Like the Moon
New song (“I Will, I Will…”)
Radio King
A Magazine Called Sunset
Simple Twist of Fate
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
The Long Cut
At My Window Sad and Lonely
So Much Wine (Butterfly)
I’m Always in Love
I’m the Man Who Loves You
New Madrid
Someday Soon
Blasting Fonda
Fake Plastic Trees
All The Same To Me
Pecan Pie
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Wilco the Song
The Ruling Class
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Jesus, Etc.
Be Not So Fearful
A Shot in the Arm
Hoodoo Voodoo
California Stars
Dreamer in My Dreams

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