After playing the first two shows at the venue in 2021, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy made his return to Brooklyn Made on Wednesday (6/21), playing four solo acoustic nights. He had two guitars and a harmonica at his disposal when I caught him on Friday (6/23), the second night of the run, and for about 90 minutes, he played a 19 song setlist, which you can see below. He led off with “Remember the Mountain Bed,” a cut from the Mermaid Avenue sessions that Wilco did with Billy Bragg. Most of the setlist was comprised of acoustic renditions of Wilco songs, including the one-two punch of “Impossible Germany” and “Art of Almost." Both are hard to imagine without the full band treatment, especially Nels Cline’s guitar solos, but Tweedy reinterpreted these standards, making them sound new yet familiar. He also played “New Madrid” from his old band, Uncle Tupelo, as well as a few songs from his solo albums.
I have been seeing both Wilco and Jeff Tweedy perform over the last twenty years, each time a magical experience in its own right. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss a little how a Jeff Tweedy acoustic show is very different from a Wilco show. While a Wilco show (like this Capitol Theatre date in March) can feel like a well-oiled machine, with the focus on the songs and not a tremendous amount of banter, a Tweedy show has a very different vibe, at least in recent years. Jeff is loose and funny, often responding whenever someone in the audience yells something. (is another career as a stand-up comic possible for him?) Perhaps it’s the size of the 500-capacity venue that leads to a sense of intimacy, or the familiarity that fans feel after having caught Tweedy and his family streaming countless hours from their home in Chicago on Instagram Live, something that started during the beginning of the pandemic. Maybe you’ve read Tweedy’s writing. He's allowed a tremendous amount of access to his personal life, whether it be through his lyrics or prose, and his fans deeply appreciate it.
Friday night's show was heavy on banter, with Jeff mentioneing that he is in need of hip replacement on both sides. When someone suggested that he get a chair and sit down for the performance, he joked that “I don’t put on nice clothes. I get my hair cut twice a year. The least I can do is stand…stand up and take it like a man!” He also announced that he would not be leaving the stage for an encore break, due to his painful mobility.
People yelled out things at him throughout the night, mostly song requests or jokes. One guy right in front of him asked whether there would be any songs repeated, having gone to the first show, and Jeff demurred to give a firm answer, instead retorting with “My songs are not badges to put on your sash.” The same guy continued talking to Tweedy as through they were the only ones in the room, trying to push his buttons and making the crowd increasingly uncomfortable. Tweedy handled the sticky, prolonged interaction skillfully and patiently, and when the guy made a request for a Wilco song, “Cars Can’t Escape,” Tweedy replied, “If I play it, will you leave?” He did end up leaving about midway during the show, escorted out by a security guard. Upon his departure, Tweedy said, “If any of you are friends with him, can you make sure he gets home okay?”
Singer songwriter Le Ren opened all four nights, and also present at each show was famed courtroom artist Elizabeth Williams, who sat quietly on the side of the stage drawing Jeff during his performances. Her work was sold at the following day’s show at the merch table, and you can see her beautiful sketches below. Jeff, who is known to dislike overuse of cameras and cellphones, joked that Williams was there to capture the memories so that no one needed to take out their phones, adding that we might be familiar with her work for the Southern District of New York.
Check out pictures from Friday by Ellen Qbertplaya below.
SETLIST: JEFF TWEEDY @ BROOKLYN MADE, 6/23/2023
Remember the Mountain Bed
Story to Tell
Normal American Kids
Less Than You Think
Art of Almost
Hearts Hard to Find
Cars Can't Escape
Sky Blue Sky
You and I
Dawned on Me
Ashes of American Flags
I'm Always in Love
The Lonely 1