In their twenty-five year history, Wilco have proven to be a musical tour de force. Always an exciting and innovative band, the all-American six piece inhabit a sonic sweet spot, somewhere between R.E.M. and Sufjan Stevens. Their sound incorporates a collection of electronic and traditional rock instruments, through which they have carved themselves a niche, both on records and at live shows. On the final stop of his solo tour, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy took things back to basics in a stripped back, unplugged set.
Appearing in his trademark broad-brimmed hat, armed with just a harmonica and acoustic guitar, Tweedy made the vast Barbican Hall space feel intimate. He took the audience on a meandering journey downstream, with a powerful and enchanting performance. It was an eclectic mix of his solo work, songs he has released with Wilco and songs from various side projects.
Tweedy has a great sense of humour. He responded to daft heckles with dry quips and witty retorts. When a woman in the front row casually asked what guitar tuning he was using, as if they were sitting next to each other in a pub, he took it in his stride, declaring an impromptu Q&A session. Yes, he did make a Trump reference, but thankfully managed to limit it to just the one.
The highlight of the night was a spine tingling rendition of a Wilco song, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. It contains the brilliantly surreal statement, ‘I am an American aquarium drinker’. When Tweedy screamed at the end of it, I was transported back in time to the iconic Nirvana: Unplugged in New York concert. Through much of the night, Tweedy strummed his guitar softly and sung in a hushed tone. This made the crowd draw in closer in an effort to be in the moment with him.
The support act, James Elkington, had an intricate, folky guitar technique, and a Mid-Atlantic accent. He came across as a down to earth chap, with hidden artistic depths. Tweedy’s self assured presence and wizard-like command of the stage left an impression on the Barbican Centre, that will resound within its brutalist walls until he returns.
The latest release from the charismatic crooner, Together At Last, is the first in a series of records called The Loft Acoustic Sessions, in which he plans to revisit music from his back catalogue.
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