Monday, April 18, 2011

The good part

It's benefit season again! 2011 was the fifth year in a row that Jeff Tweedy played concerts at the Vic Theatre to benefit youth scholarships. This year, there was a also a table in the lobby on both Friday and Saturday night, manned by the Chicago Lighthouse. The charities that the Tweedys publicly support keep adding up, and the quality of the benefit shows is always top-notch. I've come to look forward to these late winter/early spring weekends as one of my favorite show weekends of the year. Friday and Saturday kept up the tradition.

As in years past, the setlists for both shows were requests from the first thirty people in line outside. As much as Jeff likes to joke that this leads to bad shows with songs nobody else will enjoy, it's really one of the things that make the concerts special. (Obviously, given the five-year tradition, this is not lost on the decision makers.) There were no repeat songs over the two evenings, which was impressive. My picks this year were "Shake it Off" and "Monday," two songs that are unlikely to be heard at your typical solo show. Both sounded great, and I was particularly delighted with the resonator guitar version of "Shake it Off." My favorite part was Jeff playing the syncopated chorus beats Glenn usually handles by strumming below the ... bridge? Pickup? My guitar terminology may be rusty, but it really worked.

Other standout songs included one more great version of "So Much Wine" (preceded by the tale of the "mayor's daughter" from Iowa), "Sonny Feeling" solo for the first time, "Dear Employer," and "Screen Door." Banter highlights were plentiful, and included an impromptu tribute to a certain friend of mine, a digression about banter grammar police (ahem), and a shout-out to teachers. There was fun before and after the shows, too: late dinners, bars, Record Store Day errands, studying Bruce Lee's fighting methods, the electric slide, and a Kuma's meal for Sunday lunch. I'll be in Chicago again next weekend among more visiting friends, and it feels a bit like this week is just a placeholder. Not entirely, though ... Decemberists tomorrow!

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