Jeff Tweedy – Youth Scholarship Benefits, The Vic Theater, Chicago 2012
When we first saw the news on the boards that Jeff Tweedy would again be holding his annual Benefit for Youth Scholarships at the Vic Theatre in Chicago in early Spring, a rush of excitement ran through DedMels HQ and many “I HAVE to be there this time!” exclamations were exchanged. The shows have long been favorites of the die-hard fans and though we’ve experienced most of them through bootlegs, the general thought was that this wouldn’t cut it this year. Tickets went on sale, tickets were sold out, tears were shed, tickets popped back up again, and when all was said and done we were the proud owners of enough seats to send the DedMels crew off to Chicago for a much-needed return visit. I in particular had revenge to seek on the Vic since I was shut out of the Pearl Jam show there back in 2007 (have you ever seen a grown man pout like a baby for a week straight?).
The shows did not disappoint. Being total newbs to these shows, we somewhat expected it to be standing room only GA with a few reserved rows of seating up front. When we got in we realized we would have to find a different way to accomodate us and our local friends/family/tourguides. We were lucky enough to find a spot right next to the soundboard that was standing room and where we would all fit. Though things got a little noisy due to the barflies at certain times, overall it worked out quite well for us. The premise of these shows, in which all proceeds go to charity, is that the first thirty people in line get to pick the songs Jeff plays that night, so essentially he doesn’t know what he is going to play until he arrives at the venue.
The setlist was great, opening with the unexpected “Dawned on Me”, ending with “Dreamer In My Dreams” and featuring many favorites and surprise numbers along the way. Some Tweedy solo favorites that showed up this night were the Uncle Tupelo songs “New Madrid,” and “Gun,” as well as the little-played Big Star cover “Thirteen.” Some of the cooler surprises were a version of “Art of Almost,” on the album a beast of a song featuring perhaps Nels Cline’s finest guitar work, here stripped to it’s barest form. You couldn’t help but want to be a fly on the wall when he brings these songs to the band, just so you could them all in this form at least once. Other Wilco favorites that were played included “Wishful Thinking,” “Forget the Flowers,” and “Airline to Heaven.” After the show on Friday night we headed over to the Double Door for a very, very rocking show from J Roddy Walston and the Business. But we’ll save that for another post. After the show Jeff’s longtime sound man gave us the handwritten setlist, which includes the names of everyone who requested the songs so Jeff could give them personal shout-outs.
Being experienced pros by the second night, we all ended up with great seats right up front by showing up early and settling in quickly. Of the two nights, this one really took the top prize for us, based on the setlist, our seats, and the overall vibe of the evening. From the minute he took the stage with the 1-2-3 punch of “Whole Love,” “You Are Not Alone,” and “How to Fight Loneliness,” it seemed like things were going to be really great on night two. Well, they were. The show never really slowed down from there, with a perfect mix of unbelievable songs and hilarious Tweedy banter (was this guy a comedian in another life?). Highlights for me were a solo “Bull Black Nova,” “Hell is Chrome,” and a lifelong DedMels’ favorite, “Summerteeth.” (What’s up, 2piece?)
Overall, it was an unbelievable way to spend a weekend in Chicago and one that will keep us coming back as long as the big guy is willing to strap on an acoustic guitar and play some songs for the kids.
Once the bootlegs come out (there were a few tapers spotted in our vicinity both nights), we will put them up here for your enjoyment. For now, you can check out the setlists below and dream about what they will sound like!
Night One Handwritten Setlist, Thanks to Jeff's Sound Guy!
Night One 3/30/12
Setlist: Dawned On Me, Wishful Thinking, Not For the Season, The Community Song x 2, Message From Mid-Bar, Art of Almost, New Madrid, Box Full of Letters, In a Future Age, Reservations, Born Alone, Passenger Side, Wait Up, Henry and the H-Bombs (Mott the Hopple cover), Thirteen (Big Star cover), Forget The Flowers, Sunloathe, I Wish My Baby Was Born, At My Window Sad And Lonely, I’ll Fight, Standing O, Just A Kid, Gun, Pecan Pie, ELT, Airline To Heaven
Encore: A Shot in the Arm, Walken, Dreamer In My Dreams
Night Two 3/31/12
Setlist: Whole Love, You Are Not Alone, How To Fight Loneliness, The Community Song x2, Bull Black Nova, Too Far Apart, Wherever, I Can’t Keep From Talking, Hell Is Chrome, Open Mind, Summer Teeth, She’s A Jar, Someday Soon, Pick Up The Change, Blue-Eyed Soul, When You Wake Up Feeling Old, Handshake Drugs, So Much Wine (The Handsome Family cover), Strangers (The Kinks cover), At Least That’s What You Said, Down In The Willow Garden, Capitol City, Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard, Watch Me Fall, Candyfloss, Hesitating Beauty, Heavy Metal Drummer
Encore: The Thanks I Get, Hoodoo Voodoo, Casino Queen, Acuff-Rose