"I've told a lot of audiences that they have the best place, but I've lied to all of them," Jeff Tweedy told a full house at the Ryman June 24. "This is the best place." Tweedy, playing a set of songs from his forthcoming solo record under the name TWEEDY, wasn't flanked by the lavish stage production and familiar faces he had been when he last played the Mother Church with Wilco back in 2011. And until he launched into his second set — unaccompanied as he delivered classic Wilco, Uncle Tupelo and Golden Smog tunes — there weren't any familiar songs, either. Instead, it was all cuts from TWEEDY's forthcoming Sukierae, an album the noted folkster put together with his son and drummer, Spencer. But as fresh and foreign as the Sukierae songs and TWEEDY lineup might have been, there wasn't a moment of the man's set that felt ... well, un-Tweedy.
So let's get this out of the way right out of the gate: The 18-year-old Spencer Tweedy is an excellent drummer, armed with the chops and knack for subtle accents of a player twice his age. That was clear as soon as TWEEDY started in on their first Sukierae tune, a laid-back rock number called "Down From Above" that came complete with weird, angular guitar riffing. Spencer blended in with the rest of the five-piece on songs like "Diamond Light" and "Wait for Love," the latter of which featured some whimsical whistling that reminded The Spin more of Tweedy's project with Jim O'Rourke, Loose Fur, than anything from the Wilco catalog.
The crowd, much of which sported ample indie-rock beards, mostly kept right up with TWEEDY, though there was some restless chatter and affectionate heckling here and there. Tweedy engaged it a bit, responding to questions and calls before playfully saying "shut up" to one dude who hollered at him. "You're not part of the show," Tweedy said sheepishly. He also self-deprecatingly teased the crowd for cheering at his guitar playing — he guessed that there were likely at least a thousand folks in the Music City crowd who were better guitarists than he is, though he later noted, "You guys are not The Jordanaires" after a rather pitchy bit of singing along. But like a Wilco crowd, the audience remained seated for the duration of the set (save about 30 seconds at the start of the encore, that is), applauding for new songs like the standout "Slow Love" and laughing along when Tweedy impishly chided an audience member for shouting "Go!" as he was introducing the song.
The crowd had never quite gotten settled during the opening set from Albuquerque-based husband-and-wife (and drummer) outfit The Handsome Family. Best known for their song "Far From Any Road," which was used as the theme song for the first season of HBO's breakout hit True Detective, the Family's songs never came across quite as lush or mysterious as they do on record. The material is still innately Southwestern — calm, thoughtful storyteller folk filled with dual vocals, Telecaster picking and occasional glimpses of banjo and other auxiliary instrumentation. Anyway, it was mostly charming stuff, but we might connect with it a little better in a more intimate and focused setting — like at The Basement, for instance, where The Handsome Family is slated to perform on Aug. 23.
Later, when TWEEDY the band exited the stage after roughly a dozen songs, leaving Tweedy the man to play his solo set, the crowd's restlessness seemed mostly squashed. Swapping out one acoustic guitar for another after nearly every song, Tweedy breezed through Wilco crowd-pleasers like "Via Chicago," "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," "At Least That's What You Said," "I'm Always in Love," "Passenger Side" and more, alongside surprises like Loose Fur's "Laminated Cat," Uncle Tupelo's "New Madrid" and a handful of Golden Smog numbers ("Pecan Pie" and "Radio King" among them). He closed the solo set with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's "Jesus, Etc." and "I'm the Man Who Loves You," both of which sounded radically different — though newly intimate — without the wonderfully disjointed and playful accompaniment of the album versions.
TWEEDY returned to the stage for an encore, which included "You Are Not Alone" from the Tweedy-produced Mavis Staples album of the same name, a cover of Doug Sahm's "Give Back the Key to My Heart" (which appeared on Uncle Tupelo's 1993 record Anodyne) and — after thanking his band and sharing a very touching story about just how mature young Spencer is and always has been — "California Stars" from Mermaid Avenue. Then, as he's done before at the Ryman, Tweedy went off-mic for a rendition of Anodyne's "Acuff-Rose." A bit of mid-song whooping from the audience was quickly shushed, leaving only the creaking of the Ryman's wooden floors and pews to compete with Tweedy's voice and guitar. With nearly 30 songs in all, it likely wasn't the sort of show that would have won over any non-fans — though, of course, why would any be there in the first place? But for diehard Wilco fans, students of Tweedy's extensive catalog and those curious about the TWEEDY material, it was an engaging show, free from any bells and whistles (like, say, the explosive solos of Wilco guitarist Nels Cline or much in the way of production) and packed to the brim with, y'know, oodles of Tweedy.
There is so much to say about Friday night's Katy Perry concert at Bridgestone Arena. A singing poo emoji! Tap-dancing cats! Cover Girl commercials! And the infamously potentially racially insensitive mummies! But before Ms. Perry and her bajillion different costumes took the triangular Illuminati beacon of a stage — and hours before she made her post-show cameo at local bar No. 308 — there was also that time when The Spin got scolded by a perturbed mom for cursing in front of her 5-year-old. What the fuck, man?
Recent Scene cover girl Kacey Musgraves had been opening for Perry on some of her recent Prismatic Tour dates, but instead of Musgraves, we got Capital Cities, a generic dance-pop band that sounds like they write songs specifically to be used in Apple commercials. They're part '80s nostalgia (some songs sound remarkably like Culture Club) and part Chromeo, and for some reason they covered "Stayin' Alive." Mark our words: Capital Cities is the band that will be playing in the background of the beach-house party in Hollywood's inevitable remake of Weekend at Bernie's, starring Zac Efron. Boring.
And then the woman of the hour. Perry delivered the kind of show every pop star should — it was, delightfully, filled with equal parts impressive production and sheer ridiculousness. The two-hour performance was broken up into about a half-dozen different segments, each with its own theme and costume change. As Perry roared (heh) through her arsenal of hits — "Roar," "Dark Horse," "Teenage Dream," a speakeasy-esque version of "Hot N Cold" and a quick nod to Madonna's "Vogue" — the crowd (which was filled with rainbow-wig-wearing tweens, 20-somethings celebrating bachelorette parties, cool moms on summer vacay and 5-year-olds who've never heard the word "fuck" before) ecstatically screamed through every second of it.
There were two-story-high singing poo emojis, animated montages of cats getting their hair done at the "spaw," alien abductions, flying guitar players and neon-mohawked dudes running around with glow-in-the-dark spears like some kind of The Gods Must Be Crazy/Tron mash-up. At one point, after prowling around the stage in a glittery pink cat costume, Perry re-created the famous scene in Flashdance by pulling a rope and dumping a giant bowl of white, glittery "milk" all over herself because of course. Are we making it sound surreal enough for you? Because it was all very surreal.
Then came the "intimate" portion of the show, where Perry stopped acting like a cartoon and told anecdotes about coming to Nashville and playing The Bluebird Cafe. She profusely thanked her fans for helping her make her dreams come true, talked about how much she loves America, gave a couple little girls a pepperoni pizza, played a very sparkly acoustic guitar and sang her more heartfelt songs, like "By the Grace of God" and "Unconditionally." Butterflies were involved and women were dressed like sunflowers. At one point Perry hit herself in the face with her microphone and laughed at how she just shattered the flawless pop star illusion. It was hard to tell if the lip smash happened every night in a well-choreographed attempt to further humanize herself or if she really did just have a moment of clumsiness. Either way, we'll give her adorable points for it.
After everyone caught their breath, we were dumped back into Perry's sugar-high fever dream where she walked through the air while hanging from a big blue cloud, gyrated on top of a birthday cake, sat in a bright green blow-up convertible that drove her and her '90s-pop-loving BFFs all over the stage and flew from the rafters as thousands and thousands of balloons fell from the ceiling. Fans grabbed at the balloons as if Perry herself had filled each one with precious air molecules from her very own lungs.
By the time Perry closed with her feel-good empowerment anthem "Firework," everyone was hypnotized. Our hearts were screaming out, "Yes, Katy Perry, we have also felt like a plastic bag." Real-life fireworks went off all around Perry as a giant fan dramatically blew her hair back and the entire arena sparkled with hundreds of thousands of glittery little spots of lights, then BOOM, the instant the song ended the house lights went on, the dream was over, and everyone was rushed out of the arena as quickly as possible. The crew had a shit-ton of confetti to clean up. Sorry, we mean to say a poop-ton. There were kids there, after all.
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