Published Apr 12, 2018Almost since the formation of his iconic alt-country outfit, Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has continued to show Ottawa a great deal of love, often including stops in the nation's capital on his many tours. So it came as no surprise that the Chicago singer-songwriter managed to swiftly sell out the 700-seat Algonquin Commons Theatre.
Opening the night were fellow Chicagoans OHMME (formerly Homme), a young two-piece with just a six-song EP to their name. Crowded together closely on the voluminous stage, Sima Cunningham (who has toured with Tweedy) and Macie Stewart clutched their electric guitars and stunned the unassuming audience with a 25-minute set that blended stark, avant-garde instrumentation, gorgeous harmonies, unconventional phrasings and a cover of the Roches' 1982 track "Keep on Doing What You Do/Jerks on the Loose" that sounded simultaneously restrained and impassioned.
Decked out in a cream-coloured jacket and ranger hat, Jeff Tweedy entered with an acoustic guitar over his shoulder, harmonica around his neck and over 25 years of music under his belt. Kicking off with "Via Chicago," from Wilco's 1999 album Summerteeth, the 50-year old sounded commanding and haunted in this stripped-down incarnation. Moving on to an abbreviated version of the criminally underappreciated Wilco track "One Sunday Morning," the well-mannered crowd showed their first signs of appreciation during the opening notes to Tweedy's raw version of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," from Wilco's most beloved LP, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
After debuting a new song for the Ottawa crowd, Tweedy reached back into his repertoire to perform the 1993 track, "New Madrid," from his first band, the influential Uncle Tupelo, along with "Lost Love," a two-decade-old track he recorded with indie super group Golden Smog.
Sensing the crowd's civility, an audience member shouted out, "C'mon Ottawa, you can give Jeff better than that!" to which Tweedy replied, "No, you don't have to," prompting the crowd to explode into laughter and Jeff to amusingly dedicate the next song (the intimate Wilco track, "You and I") to the surly concertgoer. After renditions of side project Loose Fur's "Laminated Cat" and Wilco's "Bull Black Nova," Tweedy invited the audience to sing along as he launched into Wilco favs "Passenger Side," "Jesus, Etc." and "I'm the Man Who Loves You" alongside a riotously droll new song about Noah's flood.
Returning for an encore, Jeff invited the members of OHMME to join him for a moving rendition of the Mavis Staples/Jeff Tweedy duet, "Ain't No Doubt About It," which he dedicated to Mavis's sister (and Staples Singers vocalist) Yvonne, who passed away the day before.
After moving into Wilco songs "Misunderstood" and "I'm Always in Love" and Loose Fur's "The Ruling Class," the night came to an end with Wilco's 1999 single "A Shot in the Arm," as musician and crowd sang together, each seeming appreciative of the joy and adoration Tweedy has given to the city, and vice versa.