Local Current Blog

Review: Tweedy (Jeff and Spencer) enchant First Avenue

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performs earlier this month at a First Avenue concert by his band Tweedy. Photo by Emmet Kowler for MPR.

First Avenue hosted a sold-out family reunion of sorts on Sunday night, with guitarist Jeff Tweedy and his drummer son Spencer in their namesake band. Throughout the course of the multi-set, two-hour performance, the father-son duo dished out a hearty Tweedy buffet of Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Golden Smog, and more.

Though barely on the cusp of adulthood, 19-year-old Spencer has been conquering the drum kit since the age of two and even joined Wilco on stage at Madison Square Garden while opening for Neil Young on his 13th birthday. He and Jeff began touring under the name Tweedy just last year, playing their first show only four days after Spencer’s high school graduation. The pair knocked out 39 shows in nine different countries, and released their debut album Sukirae, in 2014 alone.

Adding to the extensive list of accomplishments, last night Spencer checked off his premier First Ave performance while his father took the Mainroom stage for the first time in over a decade. With a tip of his cowboy hat, Jeff warmly greeted the audience as old friends. “You look like you’ve aged well,” he smirked. “The stage is much higher than I remember. Maybe I was higher.”

Showcasing Sukirae, the evening began with the reverb-humming alterna-folk pieces “Fake Fur Coat” and “Diamond Light, Pt. 1,” which highlighted Spencer’s clean and crisp chops. Tweedy’s hit single title “Low Key” was, in fact, quite telling of the material’s overall laid-back disposition. “We’re trying to bring waltzes back,” Jeff joked of the style. “It’s a thankless job, okay? It’s Spencer’s dream to live in a world where there are more waltzes.”

The band soon answered with the upbeat, soulful melodies of “You Are Not Alone,” which Jeff penned for Mavis Staples, along with a cover of the late Chicago singer-songwriter Diane Izzo’s “Love Like a Wire.”

Forgoing the back-up band, Jeff then played a stripped-down solo acoustic set of mostly Wilco repertoire. Lit by a single spotlight below, the brim of Tweedy’s hat fittingly resembled a glowing halo to match his angelic voice. Rolling off hit after hit, an attentive and appreciative audience dutifully stifled themselves from singing along and spoiling the intimate moment. Sensing the pent-up crowd, Jeff stepped back from the mic with a grin and let them loose on the lyrics to “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.”

Keeping spirits high, Jeff treated the room to an encore with an old pal. “Look who I found…Prince!” he smirked as the Jayhawks Gary Louris took the stage. The duo masterfully picked and strummed their way through a few well-loved tunes from their Minneapolis-based collective Golden Smog. “Just like riding a bike,” Jeff concluded. “That’s what playing with Gary feels like.” To which Louris coyly replied, “Ride me, Jeff!”

The full band reemerged to close the night with a heart-swelling, Louris-abetted rendition of “California Stars” (originally from Jeff Tweedy’s Mermaid Avenue project with Wilco and Billy Bragg, setting Woody Guthrie lyrics to music). Bear-hugging Spencer and everyone else in his path, Jeff made sure there was still plenty of love to go ‘round. “All the way back to Uncle Tupelo, this town has made us feel so good, like we could really do this,” a grateful Jeff gushed to the audience. “I’m sure this is still an oasis for every f**king rock band in the world.”

Opening for Tweedy were powerhouse foursome the Minus Five. The Baseball Project members Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon (a Minnesota native who’s played with local bands including Zuzu’s Petals), and R.E.M. lead guitarist Peter Buck served up some seasoned rock, including material from their collaborative effort with Jeff Tweedy, “Down With Wilco.”

Tweedy set list
Full band:
Fake Fur Coat
Diamond Light, Pt. 1
World Away
New Moon
Nobody Dies Anymore
Summer Noon
You Are Not Alone (Mavis Staples)
Love Like A Wire (Diane Izzo)
Wait For Love
High As Hello
Low Key
Jeff Tweedy solo:
Via Chicago (Wilco)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco)
New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo)
Hotel Arizona (Wilco)
Passenger Side (Wilco)
Please Tell My Brother (Golden Smog)
Born Alone (Wilco)
Jesus, Etc. (Wilco)
I’m the Man Who Loves You (Wilco)
Full band:
Please Don’t Let Me Be So Understood
Only The Lord Knows (Mavis Staples)
Losing End (Neil Young)
Long Time Ago (Golden Smog)
Radio King (Golden Smog)
Give Back The Key To My Heart (Uncle Tupelo)
California Stars (lyrics by Woody Guthrie; music by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett)

Writer Selena Carlson is currently tackling a double major in journalism and music business at Augsburg College. In addition to writing, she is an avid enthusiast of all things banjo; biking; and breakfast for dinner. Photographer Emmet Kowler is a student at the University of Minnesota—Morris.

  • joelindell

    Actually … Spencer Tweedy’s First Avenue debut was way back in November 2005, playing drums on “I’m the Man Who Loves You” during Jeff’s solo gig. See setlist: http://wilcobase.com/event.php?event_key=900