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Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy a Dark Star in Solo Spotlight

There is comfort in the dark. That’s a terrain that Jeff Tweedy has often explored as the leader of Wilco, finding emotional truth in moments of desperate love and bitter isolation. And when he’s standing alone with a guitar, Tweedy’s songs of melancholy and wit are often at their darkest and most moving.

On his first solo tour, Tweedy performed at the Knitting Factory Hollywood on Saturday to show that these personal songs work in any context, dependent not on Wilco’s growing studio sophistication, but only on the songwriter’s own conviction. Looking comfortably disheveled in loose black threads, Tweedy gave his “How to Fight Loneliness” a wearied reading, with the original’s bits of sarcasm sounding less like anger than sad acceptance.

But Tweedy was rarely somber between songs. He frequently poked fun at himself and his sold-out audience and later sang a quick, charming song about busy bees and messy monkeys written with his 5-year-old son. He also premiered the funny and warm “Heavy Metal Drummer,” a song likely to appear this summer on Wilco’s new album, tentatively titled “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

The new songs were direct and evocative, much like the work that emerged during Wilco’s collaboration with Billy Bragg on previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. On Saturday, Tweedy performed several of the Guthrie tunes, saying, “Just close your eyes and pay attention to Woody’s imagery--like a poetry reading. That’s what I’m going to do.” That was good advice for Tweedy’s entire performance.

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