Jeff Tweedy is a longtime friend of Austin City Limits. His band Wilco has taken our stage four times, first in Season 25 and most recently in Season 37. So we were happy to welcome him back once again, this time in support of Sukierae, his upcoming debut solo LP. Joined by a band that includes Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius and his drumming son Spencer, Tweedy graced the Moody with a generously programmed set, highlighting not only the new album, but also songs drawn from the many stages of his 20+ year career.
The first half of the set was devoted to songs from Sukierae. Despite three guitars tripling the riff, “Down From Above” opened the show with a slow tempo and sedate arrangement, inviting attention instead of demanding it. Precedent established, new tunes like the midtempo pop song “Summer Noon,” countrified ditty “Desert Bell” and pretty ballads “Honey Combed” and “Where My Love” kept the volume down and the intimacy up, as if letting the audience peek in on a practice session that mustn’t wake the neighbors. The band didn’t keep things too quiet, though, letting stabs of dissonant guitar and keyboard spice “Diamond Light,” some muscular soloing punctuate “New Moon” and noisy riffs battle for prominence in “World Away.” The audience participation of “Slow Love” and the straightforward folk rock of “Nobody Dies Anymore” brought the band set to a close with a more bracing vibe.
The bandleader remained, armed with his collection of acoustic guitars and his vast catalog. He dug deep for Wilco’s “Born Alone” and Golden Smog’s “Please Tell My Brother,” but mostly stuck with fan favorites. From Yankee Hotel Foxtrot standards “Jesus, etc.” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to Uncle Tupelo gem “New Madrid” and A Ghost is Born standout “Hummingbird” (on which he clammed the whistling solo, but laughed it off), Tweedy had the audience comfortably sitting in the palm of his hand, getting them truly riled up with “Passenger Side,” a classic from Wilco’s debut A.M. The band then returned for spirited runs through “Give Back the Key to My Heart,” the Doug Sahm cover that appeared on Uncle Tupelo’s final LP Anodyne, and “California Stars,” Wilco’s best-known contribution to the Woody Guthrie tribute Mermaid Avenue.
For an encore, Tweedy hit the stage solo for “Misunderstood,” incorporating the album version’s dissonance after hitting a bum note and sweeping the audience up in a chant of “nothin’” to bring the show to a close. It was a special night full of new music, classic tunes and a perfectly receptive audience. We can’t wait for you to see this show when it broadcasts on PBS this fall.