Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy is releasing his first solo album — or rather, an album called Sukierae under the moniker “Tweedy” — on Sept. 23, and he was scheduled to play a headlining concert on July 12 at Taste of Chicago. The city canceled that show after heavy rainstorms earlier in the day, but Tweedy did play a free concert last night (July 17) during a taping of the public radio show “Sound Opinions” at Lincoln Hall.
The evening began with an entertaining interview: “Sound Opinions” co-hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis talking with Jeff Tweedy and his 18-year-old son, Spencer, who plays drums on the new record and on this tour with the Tweedy band. Jeff Tweedy said every Wilco album is created by committee, but this one was different, as he kept things simple in the studio, recording 20 songs with Spencer on drums. “There’s a DNA connection that I’ve never experienced with other musicians,” he said.
But Tweedy plans to convene Wilco soon to begin work on a new album by the whole band — or at least to start the process by “messing around” in the studio. “Six people finding a part on a song — that’s kind of the idea of Wilco,” he said. As far as when to expect that album, he said “probably” next year.
Like his father, Spencer has a great sense of humor, and it was fun to see the two of them joking around during the interview. When the subject of Jeff Tweedy’s acting in recent episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and “Portlandia” came out, Spencer said, “Don’t be surprised if you see him in a major motion picture next year.” Acting surprised, his father asked, “Do you know something I don’t?”
After the interview, Tweedy and his band — Spencer on drums, Darin Gray on bass, Jim Elkington on guitar and Liam Cunningham on keyboards — played a set of songs from the new album. The music wasn’t a radical departure from Tweedy’s songs with Wilco: mostly mellow and midtempo, often with a pensive quality. It will take more listens to become familiar with these songs; I expect that they’ll grow on me, as most of Tweedy’s past music has.
He closed the show with three more recognizable songs: “You Are Not Alone,” which he wrote for Mavis Staples; Doug Sahm’s “Give Back the Key to My Heart,” which Tweedy covered with Uncle Tupelo on the 1993 album Anodyne; and the Wilco-Woody Guthrie anthem “California Stars.”
Portions of last night’s interview and concert will show up on a future episode of “Sound Opinions.” Thanks to the show’s producers for letting me take a few photos.