Thursday, March 31, 2011

So flattered by fate

It's the end of the first quarter of 2011, and I finally got to see some Jeff Tweedy shows! On a short tour that hit just six cities, two of Jeff's stops were Madison and Iowa City. Clearly I was in for the short drive downtown on Monday, and Iowa City fell just within my reasonable weeknight range. Well, "reasonable." You know how I do.

Madison and Iowa City ended up being very different shows. Madison was a little longer, and a little more ... in control. Which is somewhat ironic, because there were probably a few more more disruptive folks, if we're talking sheer numbers, at the Capitol Theater. At one point toward the end of the night in Madison, Jeff started to strum "Be Not So Fearful" in response to a shouted request, but was completely drowned out by other requests and actually gave up. In Iowa City, however, the show was all but taken over for awhile by one particularly loud and insistent disruptive girl (who at one point squawked that she was the daughter of the mayor of Cedar Rapids), in addition to plenty of beer bottle clinking and some random comments and mysterious ripples of laughter. None of this meant that either show was bad, and I think Jeff has been handling the unpredictable nature of audiences better and better.  It's just that, like it or not, the audience can shape the show. Mostly-ruly Madison got a few more songs, as well as more singalongs and general crowd participation. Iowa City got some extended exchanges with certain audience members, and a pointed dedication of "So Much Wine" by the Handsome Family.

Not only was "So Much Wine" a fitting dedication for the mayor's daughter, it was also one of many musical highlights of the two shows. A new song, "Born Alone," was played in Madison and in Iowa City and is already stuck in my head. I loved hearing "In a Future Age" and "Airline to Heaven" in Iowa, and "Candyfloss" and "Pieholden Suite" in Madison. "Not for the Season" (or "Laminated Cat," if you prefer) was played both nights as well. Jeff mentioned in Iowa City that Nels gets credit for a lot of the guitar parts Jeff actually performed on albums, much to Nels's discomfort. "Loved your work on A Ghost is Born, Nels!" And Jeff's new(?) ivory resonator guitar proved perfectly suited for a duo of off-mic show closers.

These shows plunged me full-tilt into the spring concert season in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. I've got another show tomorrow, then the Wisconsin Film Festival this weekend, another show Tuesday, a show the following Monday, and then Friday and Saturday and maybe Sunday, and then Tuesday, and then the next Saturday and Sunday, and then that Tuesday, then maybe Friday, and then the next week Saturday and Sunday, and then I have a work trip and suddenly it's mid-May. I feel a bit like I'm in a roller coaster car that's just begun its trip down the first big hill, gaining momentum. Too late to get off!

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