Who knew that Jeff Tweedy is a fan of fart jokes?
Who knew that Jeff Tweedy is a fan of fart jokes? Well, he did talk about shitting in his pants a few times a couple of years ago here at a Wilco show. But before introducing “Only the Lord Knows,” a song he wrote for Mavis Staples, the other night at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, Tweedy took a few moments to make farting noises on his guitar, screwing up his face as if passing some elephant-sized wind. Meanwhile, his 18-year-old son Spencer looked on from behind the drum kit.
At this point in the game, Tweedy and Wilco have nothing left to prove. He outgrew his Uncle Tupelo cult fame, wrote some of the most acclaimed records of the ‘90s and the ‘00s and kicked an addiction to painkillers. These days, Wilco and Tweedy are road warriors, selling crowds during the summer concert series, only occasionally putting out albums with solid, yet unremarkable songs that cannot touch the greatness of the Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tunes. Surprisingly, when Tweedy dropped the double album Sukirae last year–not with his stalwart band, but his son and some friends–the singer may have released some of his most inspired work since A Ghost is Born.
If a Wilco show these days can sometimes feel like watching a well-oiled machine do its thing, Tweedy’s concerts on this tour, which feature full-band renditions of Sukirae material along with a solo section featuring Wilco favorites, seem to allow the singer a chance to stretch out a bit. True, he hasn’t played the new songs live very often, giving tunes such as “Hazel,” “Fake Fur Coat” and “Flowering” an edge of exciting discovery rather the precision a song can get from night after night performance.
Tweedy turned in a generous set that spanned nearly 30 songs. After a dozen new tunes with his band, Tweedy remained on stage to dutifully play some fan favorites. Dressed in a dark shirt and goofy cowboy hat, the singer’s honeyed voice sounded phenomenal as he played quiet versions of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “One Wing,” “Via Chicago” and “Jesus Etc.” When one fan shouted out for “Gun,” Tweedy veered from the setlist and played the Uncle Tupelo favorite. He then capped off that section with Spencer re-joining him for “Heavy Metal Drummer.”
During the encore, Tweedy covered songs by John Lennon (“God”), Neil Young (“The Losing End (When You’re On)”) and Doug Sahm (“Give Back to the Key to My Heart”) before ending with “California Stars.” Without the constraints and expectations associated with a Wilco gig, Tweedy had a chance to dabble, taking from his new record, sprinkling it with old favorites and then spicing it up with some covers. Tweedy is notorious for brutally honest stage banter during his solo shows and right before he started in on the fart jokes, he made fun of guitarists who make funny faces when shredding.
“What are you doing in your life that you need to do that? Tweedy asked. A moment or two later he was squatting on the stage and talking about farting. God bless you, Jeff.