Unsurprisingly, Jeff Tweedy's solo appearance was what many LouFesters came to see. Wilco's frontman obliged fans with an 85-minute acoustic set featuring both obscurities and familiar songs. The night's first tune, "Sunken Treasure," conjured chills - from its wavering harmonica and understated acoustic riffs to its jarringly lonely lyrics ("I am so out of tune with you") and whispered secrets ("Music is our savior").
The crowd was quiet and respectful during "Treasure." (It was just as shocking that the reverent tone continued throughout the set.) As a result, the vulnerability of the songs performed cut to the quick. Wilco's "One Wing" sounded like an Elliott Smith song, all fragile and fluttery. "Via Chicago" was delicate and aching; as always, so was "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," whose sentiments sound so raw and exposed without the studio bells and whistles.
Tweedy also gave hardcore fans some real treats. "When the Roses Bloom Again," found on the 2002 soundtrack to Chelsea Walls, made a rare appearance. So did the 1998 Golden Smog song "Lost Love" and a cover of the Handsome Family's "So Much Wine." Several Wilco tunes also received reworkings, to great effect: The version of "Casino Queen" was a shit-kicking blues number, old-school rock & roll-style. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" was another acoustic barnburner, with forceful strumming replacing the motorik rhythms and squalling feedback. "Misunderstood" also ebbed and flowed between tasteful restraint and askew riffing. (More intriguing, the song had some distinctive pedal-effects action going on throughout. Perhaps Nels Cline's gadget manipulation is rubbing off.)
Everyone was in good spirits, Tweedy included. He flubbed a word or two of Uncle Tupelo's "New Madrid" - and after the tune, he admitted his "mind slipped," because he realized (among other things) how close we were to New Madrid. Right after this banter, someone apparently called out that he needed to pay his tab at Cicero's. He responded: "Pay my tab at Cicero's? No way - I don't owe anybody. They owe me." As everyone laughed, he added, "I should have sent 'em my rehab bill." Later, he joked again that he "made the weather better with his music" - it had cooled down considerably, to a pleasant temperature - because, after all, it was "Jeff Tweedy Day."
Indeed, an autumnal chill permeated the air as the sun went down - a perfect match for the song choices, as comforting as an old, worn-in blanket: "Passenger Side" "Jesus, Etc.," "A Shot in the Arm." His voice grew stronger as the set progressed, and the music grew louder, more forceful. This merely increased the good vibes: Near the end of the night, Tweedy simply said, "Thank you so much for being so nice to me all of these years. It's nice being so close to home."
For the Record: Tweedy said "Nothing!" twenty times during "Misunderstood."
Setlist: "Sunken Treasure" "Mountain Bed" "One Wing" "Muzzle of Bees" "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" "Lost Love" (Golden Smog) "New Madrid" "Airline to Heaven" "When the Roses Bloom Again" "The Ruling Class" (Loose Fur) "Jesus, Etc." "Via Chicago" "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" "Hummingbird" "So Much Wine" (Handsome Family cover) "Passenger Side" "Casino Queen" "Misunderstood" "I'm the Man Who Loves You" "A Shot in the Arm"