Wilco’s Latest Front of House Release Focuses on Jeff Tweedy’s Latest Album

Wilco Front of House Series 20

Jeff Tweedy

LISTEN NOW: Drive-In at SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL- June 4, 2021

When we look at the pandemic and how it has affected the music industry, perhaps the most defining frame is of response. The resilient ways that artists, crew, and the industry at large took a look at the circumstances and responded. In the initial wave of lockdown, living room livestreams and concert rebroadcasts were among the most popular ways that artists connected with fans and kept live music out there. Jeff Tweedy turned to songwriting. The Wilco front-man was in a unique position to write and record entirely from “home.” 

Home in this case was both Tweedy’s physical home and The Loft, Wilco’s studio in Chicago. With the help of his sons, Spencer and Sam, Tweedy responded to lockdown with a truly home-grown record. The album, titled Love Is The King, feels intimately connected to the pandemic. It’s a meditation on human connection: good days, bad days, relationships, mortality, and everything else that crossed our minds these last two years. Love Is The King takes center stage in the latest release of Wilco’s ‘Front of House’ archival concert series. 

A first for the series, this concert did not come from a theatre, club, or festival but instead, a drive-in pop-up venue at Bridgeview, Illinois’ SeatGeek Stadium parking lot. It was only fitting that the first release of these songs in their live form is connected to the way artists responded to the pandemic. The bygone drive-in was the miracle that safely got artists out of the living room, back on the road, and into parking lots, farms, and speedways around the country. 

The concert, available today on nugs.net, features almost every song from Love Is The King, including hits “Guess Again,” “Gwendolyn,” and the title track. The concert also features Tweedy favorites including “Low Key” and “Summer Noon.” The extended encore begins with “Even I Can See,” a tender testament of marital adoration from Love Is The King. The encore then shifts into covers of material from The Sir Douglas Quintet, Diane Izzo, The Beatles, and Doug Sahm. 

The highlight of the encore comes as Tweedy performs Mavis Staples’ “You Are Not Alone,” a song he produced with Staples on her 2010 album of the same name. Though the song is more than a decade old, it evokes the universal feelings of loneliness felt throughout the pandemic. The lyrics are a simple acknowledgment that we are together, even in isolation. “You Are Not Alone” offers a simple encouragement: 

You are not alone

I’m with you

I’m lonely too

“You Are Not Alone” and Love Is The King are perfect encapsulations of our collective experience over the last two years. Though the pandemic may not be over, the fact that we can listen to Jeff Tweedy sing these songs on a stage in front of an audience speaks to how far we’ve come. We’ve made it to the other side with a greater realization of the things that connect all of us. 

You can see Jeff Tweedy live in concert this December in Chicago and Los Angeles: 

12/22/2021 Chicago, IL – Metro

12/23/2021 Chicago, IL – Metro

12/28/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

12/29/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

12/30/2021 Los Angeles, CA – Largo

Wilco Shares New Front of House Archival Release

After crossing, un-crossing, and re-crossing the Canadian border a few days earlier, Wilco undertook a week-long stay on the Great White North side of things in early July 2006.  This jaunt featured the introduction of two additional songs from the forthcoming “Sky Blue Sky” album (a third song, “Walken,” had already been in the repertoire for over a year), as well as a(nother) new arrangement of Spiders (Kidsmoke).  

This particular show from The Playhouse features an excellent recording of the band in typical white-hot mid-tour form.  Beginning with what is surely one of their most evocative opening songs, “Hell Is Chrome” forces those who just want to let their rocks roll to sit/stand at rapt attention.  Four songs in, we get a first glimpse at “Sky Blue Sky” in the form of “What Light”, featuring some intro and first verse guitar flourishes from Nels Cline that would later be excised from the live arrangement.  The biggest highlight comes a few songs later: the first (and one of the few) live performances of the unreleased (until now!) “Let’s Fight”.   This rarity was first attempted during the “A Ghost Is Born” sessions, and then re-attempted, but never completed, during the recording of “Sky Blue Sky”.  This is followed by the aforementioned “Spiders”, with its new ending whereby the band fades down to the sole sound of Glenn’s bass drum, only to then abruptly silence that and leave the audience to (hopefully) keep time via handclaps.  Future versions of this arrangement gave the audience sufficient time and rope to figuratively hang themselves (it’s hard to clap in time at a rock show), but this one keeps things short and crisp before the final instrumental chorus comes crashing through.

Other standouts include a very rocking “A Shot in The Arm” and a beautiful extended (albeit slightly undermixed) solo from Mr. Cline on “Ashes of American Flags”.  

– Marc Prizer

New Exclusive Live Archives From Wilco

Wilco is back with the latest entry in their nugs.net exclusive “Front of House” series. This release features both nights of Wilco’s 2010 “An Evening With” tour stop in Montclair, New Jersey. Check out Marc Prizer’s notes on the shows below. Click here to listen to start listening.

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“Three-hour shows! Acoustic sets! Deep cuts! On-stage restaurant gift certificate giveaways! All of these factors made the Spring 2010 “An Evening With” tour one of the most revered among long-time fans. Initially starting with a hefty 33-35 song length, by the time the tour rolled into the central New Jersey town of Montclair, the show had expanded to occasionally hit 38 songs played over 3-plus hours onstage. The sets were so long that, in order to catch their collective breath, the band really did take a few moments mid-show to give away local restaurant gift certificates to a few lucky fans.

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But quantity ain’t nothin’ without quality, and these shows have a high quantity of quality (see what we did there?). Perhaps the coolest aspect of these shows is how the performance morphs, via the noise-coda of “Poor Places”, from it’s initial hi-wattage electricity to an intimate mid-show acoustic set…and then back “up” again after “Airline To Heaven’s” crescendo. In addition to its counterbalance of timbre and dynamics, the acoustic set also provided a platform for the performance of rarely-played deep cuts; these Montclair shows include “Someday Some Morning Sometime”, “When You Wake Up Feeling Old”, and the deepest of deep tracks, “More Like The Moon” (featuring a beautiful extended Jeff Tweedy acoustic guitar solo). These shows also include powerful readings of the Big Star songs “In The Street” and “Thank You Friends” as a tribute to the then-recent passing of Wilco hero Alex Chilton.

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All in all, the two shows in Montclair showcase a whopping 57 different songs, presenting a near-complete representation of what went down during that “An Evening With” tour.” – Marc Prizer