Jeff Tweedy’s sarcastic stage banter captivates at Foellinger

“I’m trying to balance fun with crushing depression. Always a challenge.”
It might be challenging, but if the two standing ovations, two encores, and endless stream of shouted song requests are any indication, Jeff Tweedy succeeded brilliantly Saturday night at Foellinger Auditorium. Moving seamlessly through Wilco fan favorites and lesser known solo act tunes, Jeff Tweedy’s hour and a half set lived up to its sold out billing.
Before Tweedy took the stage, Canadian folk trio Great Lake Swimmers treated those still filing in to a superb opening act. Front man Tony Dekker’s spacey, ambient vocals washed over the crowd’s whiskey softened sensibilities delivering lyrical wisps like cold breaths of Canadian air. The tremble of Dekker’s vocals were brought into focus with precise percussion punctuation marks and banjo flourishes, the sort of music that reminds you of the cold outside, but makes you feel the warmth of your seat.
This, however, was Jeff Tweedy’s show, and he walked out to a raucous ovation. “You guys sound loud,” he laughed.
Rotating between six guitars, Tweedy picked his way around most of his prolific discography and while Urbana isn’t Chicago, it was clear the Foellinger show was something of a miniature homecoming. With an auditorium full of Chicagoland transplants and his family filling up the front row, Tweedy seemed at home with the audience, frequently trading sarcastic barbs with members who shouted song requests. He heeded his son’s request to play “Hummingbird,” and when one fan suggested he play the Pet Shop Boys, Tweedy’s Chicago nature shined through. “I picture a Packer fan, or something.”
But despite Tweedy’s sarcasm, his comfort with the crowd was obvious. He smiled his way through the entire set, even the crushingly depressing parts, which any Tweedy fan knows are not rare.
Returning to the stage for the first of two encores, it was clear that Jeff Tweedy was in his element when he broke into a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” which had been shouted out earlier by an audience member. At this point, Tweedy was just showing off and while it may not have been for a hometown crowd, it was certainly close enough. He closed the show without the PA system, standing on the edge of the stage and singing directly into the audience, leaving to another standing crowd.
Filled with fun and crushing depression—there’s nothing like a night with Jeff Tweedy.

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