Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy played Rochester for the second time on Tuesday night, and maybe the last time. No offense to Rochester area residents themselves – in fact, the crowd was probably more than half filled with Twin Citians – but there must’ve been a mass cloud of laughing gas leaking out of the Mayo Clinic or something that made the crowd as goofy and annoying as any of recent memory. Fans were loudly singing parts out of turn, laughing for no reason and yelling out requests the way monster-truck fans yell out their favorite vehicles. “You know, we do have a request page on our website; most of these songs I’m playing came from that,” Tweedy resorted to saying mid-show. One particularly annoying fan replied in a huff, “Whatever!” Yeah, whatever indeed.
On top of all that, the Mayo Civic Center’s Presentation Hall had a high-school auditorium vibe with a bad acoustic bounce/echo where I was seated. To his credit, Tweedy handled the venue like a prop and the hecklers like a master comedian, except for when he made fun of the woman who let us know she came to the show from Boston. “You know: I just played in Portland, Maine,” he quipped -- but then learned she was in town visiting the clinic. Doh! Amid all the chaos, he still managed to squeeze in some lovely acoustic recreations/revisitations of some of Wilco’s best stuff. “One Wing” and “Muzzle of Bees,” in particular, soared with all the guitars stripped away and the melodic hooks up front and center, while “Cars Can’t Escape” – a nugget he sang on film with the late Jay Bennett for the “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” documentary– was an emotional standout. He ended the show with a truly unplugged second encore, playing in front of the monitors with no microphone and a wonderfully echoy resophonic guitar. It was a great way to finish, and served the double purpose of finally getting the crowd to shut up for two songs.
The fans could be somewhat forgiven for geeking out with their song requests. Tweedy picked and choose a wide swath of albums, including everything from “Cars Can’t Escape” to a track by his little-heard side band Loose Fur (“Not for the Season”), and from one of the lesser-known “Mermaid Avenue”/Woody Guthrie adaptations (“Remember the Mountain Bed”) to two Golden Smog songs tailored to Minnesota fans. He introduced the set’s lone Uncle Tupelo tune, “New Madrid,” by recouting the time he played it “in a muddy field somewhere near here opening for the Gear Daddies.” He was referring to the 1992 “Down by Iowa” concert that would be the Daddies’ temporary swan song near their native Austin, Minn. You can read about that show here. Even with all that mud, I think Tuesday’s concert might’ve been messier.
Spiders (Kidsmoke) / Remember the Mountain Bed / One Wing / I Am Trying to Break Your Heart / Cars Can’t Escape (outtake from YHF) / Via Chicago / You and I / Far, Far Away / Muzzle of Bees / Not for the Season (Loose Fur track) / New Madrid / new song (Born Alone?) / I’ll Fight / Jesus Etc. / Don’t Forget the Flowers / Radio King (Golden Smog song) / Hummingbird / Theologians / I’m the Man Who Loves You ENCORE 1: Pecan Pie (Golden Smog) / Casino Queen / Passenger Side ENCORE 2: Walken / Dreamer in My Dream