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Concert Reviews:
Tweedy focuses on new material at Masonic tour-opener

Posted: Friday, June 6, 2014

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DETROIT -- Playing a show comprised of primarily new and previously unheard songs is "a colossally ignorant thing to do," according to Jeff Tweedy.

That didn't stop the Wilco leader and Uncle Tupelo co-founder from doing just that on Thursday night, June 6, at the Jack White Theatre in the Masonic Temple as he launched a new tour and the latest project in his ambitiously eclectic career. And because of a loyal audience that trusts Tweedy to steer it right, as well as the Chicago-based troubadour's droll and self-deprecating sense of humor, the nearly two-hour show was characteristically engaging and certainly lit a strong fire for this next creative step.

The 14 new songs hailed from the 20 recorded for "Sukierae," a collaboration with his 18-year-old son and drummer Spencer that's billed as Tweedy. The set doesn't come out until Sept. 16, but Tweedy -- expanded to a quintet for live shows -- delivered the new material capably if a bit tentatively, demonstrating a stylistic breadth not unlike what Wilco has done over the course of its ?? years. The delicate dirge "Down From Above" opened the night, while "Flowering" and "Wait For Love" leaned to Tweedy's Americana roots and "World Away" steered in a funk direction. Most of the songs -- including "Summer Noon," "Where My Love" and "Honey Comb" -- were cut from mellow, melodic cloth, with uptempo numbers such as "Summer Noon," "Low Key" and the noisey, fusion-flavored "Diamond Love" in a distinct minority. And Tweedy did have success in getting the Masonic crowd to sing along to the intro and outro choruses of "Slow Love" even though they'd never heard it before.

Spencer Tweedy, meanwhile, played with steady assurance and the kind of nuance usually associated with older players. "That's my boy!" Tweedy gushed with a smile while introducing the band members. "He WANTS to be here. Really. You can ask him."

The fans' pay-off for their patience with the new material was Tweedy solo acoustic dips into his catalog -- a crowd-pleasing selection of favorites from Wilco ("Spiders (Kidsmoke)," "Passenger Side," "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Jesus, Etc.," "Misunderstood," "I'm the Man Who Loves You") and Uncle Tupelo ("New Madrid") as well as covers of Mavis Staples' Tweedy-written and produced "You Are Not Alone" and Loose Fur's "The Ruling Class." The show closed with a rendition of Uncle Tupelo's "Acuff Rose," with Tweedy playing and singing without amplification -- but that only amplified the appropriateness of lines such as "Sometimes I get the feeling that every thing's alright."

On this night, Tweedy's show was more than just alright.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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