Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Jeff Tweedy and Snowblink at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto
Frank YangThis show was a week ago; I think this may actually be my longest delay between witness and writeup ever and, in fact, Jeff Tweedy’s solo tour is just about over. So if you were waiting on some kind of report from opening night at Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre to decide if it was worth picking up one of the few remaining tickets for a later date… I’m sorry. Sorry that you would allow anything I say or do to influence your decision-making – you know I’m drunk most of the time, right?
But if I had gotten this review up sooner, I could have exhorted everyone going to any of the shows to arrive early enough to catch Snowblink, as local duo had been tapped to open up every show on the tour – maybe those at Wilco HQ had seen my glowing review of their debut Long Live? Either way, even though it was a tremendous opportunity for them, as soon as the lights dimmed it was clear they weren’t just happy to be there. The pair of Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman took the stage carrying lanterns and eventually set up in their own, white cloth-strewn side of the stage – they were going to put on their show. And what a show it was – Gesundheit’s voice was strong and clear and sounded divine in the theatre’s acoustics, and their simple two-guitar arrangements – including an oustanding cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper” – were subtly embellished with loops, percussion and electronic flourishes. Gesundheit might be a California native, but Toronto now proudly claims her as our own.
Wilco might have last been here as recently as October 2009, but it’s been much, much longer since Jeff Tweedy has come to town with just his acoustic guitars and songbook – so long that Tweedy himself didn’t remember ever having done so. In fact, it had been almost a decade exactly since he played Trinity-St. Paul’s on March 1, 2001, and when reminded of that by the audience he wryly referred to those as “the bad old days”. And while that may have been true for him from both a personal and professional sense, it’s impossible to deny that those were also some of Wilco’s most creatively fertile years, but also an era not often revisited with the full band.
And for about 90 minutes, alone on stage save for a circle of five acoustics and occasional visits from his guitar tech Steve (who was celebrating a birthday), Tweedy would revisit all eras of his career as well as some of his side-projects to air out some songs which would likely never otherwise be heard in these parts. Such as the original, non-Krautrock arrangement of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot b-side “Magazine Called Sunset” or Loose Fur selections “The Ruling Class” and “Chinese Apple”. And of course there were the couple of rare forays into the Uncle Tupelo canon – I know “Gun” would have been too much to hope for, but “Wait Up” was a most certainly welcome and the encore-closing, unamplified “Acuff-Rose” was for the ages. And from Wilco proper, there was a “Poor Places” which I thought turned out better than he seemed to, a rousing “Shot In The Arm” and a new song which has been unofficially dubbed “Open Up Your Mind”.
Considering who the Wilco dynamic has changed with the addition of virtuoso players like Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche, it was good to be reminded that without Tweedy’s songs at the core, beautiful and resonant even stripped down to their essences, it’d all be for naught. Tweedy on his own was also a different sort of performer, more inclined to engage and banter with the audience (and not berate us for not standing up this time), debate grammar, vocabulary and requests and crack more than few jokes, his best being that which accompanied the photographic evidence of his visit to local Wilco-themed sandwich shop Sky Blue Sky, and to which he added they “seemed a little safe – why not try some mulch, tinsel or fibreglass?”.
With a new Wilco album likely due out in the Summer, it’s a pretty safe bet that Tweedy will be back with his cohorts in tow for another couple nights at Massey Hall. And it’ll be expansive and filled with amazing musicianship, no doubt, but that just makes simple shows like this one all the more special.
Photos: Jeff Tweedy, Snowblink @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – March 22, 2011
MP3: Wilco – “What Light”
MP3: Wilco – “Spiders” (live)
MP3: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
MP3: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”
Video: Wilco – “What Light”
Video: Wilco – “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”
Video: Wilco – “Box Full Of Letters”
Video: Wilco – “I Must Be High”
Video: Snowblink – “Ambergris”
Video: Snowblink – “The Haunt”
From the ashes of The Broken West and to The Drake Underground comes Pasadena’s Apex Manor; Ross Flournoy’s new band will be opening up for Jonny on June 3 and 4. Their debut The Year Of Magical Drinking is out now.
With the May 10 release date of their new record Burst Apart not really all that far off, The Antlers have put together a North American tour that includes a June 14 stop at The Mod Club with Little Scream supporting. She had to bail on the last few dates of her tour with Sharon Van Etten, including the April 12 date at The Drake, to go to Europe with Junip so this will be her next local date. Not that you needed the extra incentive to go see The Antlers, of course. The band performed the whole of the new record live at SxSW and NPR has the stream.
MP3: The Antlers – “Two”
Exclaim, Billboard, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and Mother Jones all have features on The Mountain Goats. Their new record All Eternals Deck is out now and they’re at The Opera House on April 3.
Sharon Van Etten is featured in The Phoenix New Times, Spin and Georgia Straight while NPR is streaming one of her SxSW performances. She’s at The Drake Underground on April 12, and yes that’s her doing backing vocals on The National’s contribution to the soundtrack for the film Win Win, which is now available to download.
Spinner, Pedestrian TV and Vanity Fair have interviews with The Kills, whose new record Blood Pressures is out next week. NPR is streaming one of their SxSW performances so you know what to expect when they hit The Sound Academy on May 1. The new album is also streaming in whole at their website.
Stream: The Kills / Blood Pressures
Video: The Dodos – “Black Night”
Video: J Mascis – “Not Enough”
The Los Angeles Times, Spinner, The Boot, The Telegraph and Publishers Weekly all talk to Steve Earle about I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, which is both the name of his new record, out April 26, and first novel, out May 12.
NPR doubles up on The Head & The Heart, streaming both one of their SxSW sets and a World Cafe session. The Big Takeover has an interview with the band, whose self-titled debut gets a reissue on April 16.
Tags: Antlers, Apex Manor, Asobi Seksu, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Buffalo Tom, Dodos, Drive-By Truckers, Elephant 6, Head & The Heart, J Mascis, Jeff Tweedy, Kills, LCD Soundsystem, Little Scream, Liz Phair, Low, Mountain Goats, My Morning Jacket, National, Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Phantogram, Sharon Van Etten, Snowblink, Steve Earle, Titus Andronicus, Warpaint, Wilco, Wye Oak, Yo La Tengo