Another post, another concert or two. Over the weekend I visited the always wonderful (and this time cold and rainy) Chicago for a pair of Jeff Tweedy solo performances to benefit a youth scholarship fund. I'm no stranger to these shows; this was my fourth year in attendance. Still, I realize I can never predict the twists and turns each evening may take.
It's a well-established tradition now that the first thirty or so people in line each night get to pick the setlists for these concerts. This leads to an eclectic group of songs: a mixture of the obscure b-sides Jeff always teases the crowd about, side project and former-band tunes, plenty of covers, and a few favorite staples. We heard "Monkey Mess," a song written years ago by Jeff with his son's preschool class. "Fake Plastic Trees," sounding ever more polished. A new acoustic arrangement of "Poor Places." A verse or two of a song popularized by Elvis Presley, "A Fool Such as I." The always-beautiful "More Like the Moon," with a slight lyrical variation that would only be noticed by a nerd such as I. A brand new song Jeff wrote for Mavis Staples with a chorus of "You're not alone." (That one wasn't a request, exactly, but came when an audience member asked Jeff what he would like to play.) The song that surprised me most of all was "Shakin' Sugar," a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era outtake. I would have never requested it, assuming it had no chance ... but I'm glad someone did. And I'm certainly glad I was wrong.
Impressing me most this year was the attention Jeff paid to playing all of the requests. In the past, as far as I can recall, there have always been songs nixed or omitted, or alternate requests solicited. Although one repeat song from Night 1 was not played on Night 2, I don't think anybody's choice was skipped this year. Given how deep people dug for their requests, that's pretty remarkable. My own request on Night 2 was a choice between two songs: either "Ashes of American Flags" from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, or "Single Ladies" by Beyoncé. I'm pretty sure I expected Jeff to pick the former, but instead we were treated to a mostly spoken-word, entirely hilarious dramatic reading of "Single Ladies" in full. Oh goodness. You'd be surprised by how many different inflections can be put on the line "Don't be mad once you see that he want it."
Concerts weren't the only thing going on in the city over the weekend, of course. There's also this holiday called St. Patrick's Day, and Chicago is kind of into it. My companions and I visited the green Chicago River, and I bought a shamrock lei from one of the many vendors in the Loop. (Two for $1.00 if they can't get them untangled!) We also enjoyed a delicious dim sum brunch on Sunday, with bubble tea for dessert. I should get down to Chicago for a weekend more often than I do, really. Good thing I have two more on the calendar within the next month and a half. Next time, it should truly be spring.