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Savannah Music Festival Review: Jeff Tweedy

To call a Jeff Tweedy show “stripped down” seems obvious, but there was Tweedy on the Lucas stage with just a guitar, a harmonica, a microphone, and that incredible voice.

In that setup, Tweedy looks a little like a cool substitute teacher, but as soon as he begins to sing, his presence fills any room.

First things first, that voice. His is one of the most easily recognizable voices in music, following him from Uncle Tupelo through Wilco to his solo work. It sounds just like it does on the albums. (I also have to wonder how he maintains it, because not once through an hour and a half show did he drink water or even stumble vocally.)

Tweedy’s voice is like a soothing hug from a friend, like a long-awaited therapy session. That, plus the overall quiet nature of the acoustic set, made it feel almost like a sad boy show.

But, at least he knows it. A few songs in, he asked the crowd the standard “How are you guys tonight?” and someone shouted back, “How are you?” He laughed and said, “People just need to check in on me sometimes.”

A word on the audience: the typical Woo crowd was out in full force, which Tweedy delighted in poking fun at.

There, of course, was the requests guy, who incoherently bellowed the name of his favorite song. Tweedy replied by joking that he had, right here in his possession, a list of all the audience’s requests. “But there’s no consensus, so that gives me the liberty to play whatever the fuck I want.”

Tweedy’s banter was fun and indicative that he doesn’t take himself too seriously at all. That’s a nice juxtaposition with the subject matter, which can veer into dark.

Tweedy is touring in support of his new album, Warmer, which comes out today. It’s the follow-up to November’s WARM, a deeply personal album that won an 8.3 review by Pitchfork.

One song from WARM, “Having Been Is No Way To Be,” details Tweedy’s addiction and the effect of it on his relationships. The lyric “If I got high / From time to time / Oh I wonder how much freedom you would need / And I’d be sorry when you wake up to me” was particularly powerful and put a collective lump in the throat of the audience.

It wasn’t all sad, though. Tweedy ended with a rousing singalong rendition of “Let’s Go Rain,” a ringing endorsement for Noah’s flood to happen again.

Leaving the theatre, all anyone could say was, “Wasn’t that incredible?” — Rachael Flora