Smile Politely

Tweedy’s performance does not disappoint, but the audience does

Last night Jeff Tweedy played the final show of his solo tour at the Virginia Theatre. Tweedy was on point. He played crowd favorites, deep cuts, and new releases from his recent albums Warm and Warmer. Warm has become an instant hit for me. While it is certainly not a pick-me-up album, it is a thoughtful and beautiful story of attempting to come to terms with loss and mortality.

Tweedy entertained the crowd with playful banter and a ribbing of those in the high dollar seats (whose enthusiasm could not match those of us slumming it in the cheap seats). Although fans loyally follow Wilco and Tweedy for their decades of well-written albums, fans make it a point to see Tweedy live every time he’s in town because of his passionate performances. Tweedy is an honest performer. He shares stories from the road and isn’t afraid to crack a smile when a song starts off key.

Last night, Tweedy did not disappoint, but unfortunately a few members of the audience did. A few tactless hecklers shamelessly shouted for Tweedy to dedicate a song to the late Jay Bennett, former Wilco bandmate and Urbana resident, and refused to relent after Tweedy stated their statements were hurtful. As most Wilco fans and C-U townies know, Bennett did not leave Wilco on good terms. Ten years ago this May, Bennett passed away. I understand that Bennett was a part of the C-U music scene and a member of this community, but that does not excuse patrons berating Tweedy on stage about a painful and traumatic time in his life.

I am a Wilco and Jeff Tweedy fan. I do not know him personally. But as a fellow human, I have to imagine it is awful to have some jackasses repeatedly scream at you about your deceased friend during a performance. Tweedy handled it as well as he could have. I am grateful that he called out their comments as inappropriate. The situation affected the remainder of the performance. Tweedy seemed tired of the whole scene but I do not believe anyone in the audience with half a heart was disappointed. There was a collective cringe throughout the audience as the hecklers continued their assault. This is a public shaming of those individuals, and an apology and thank-you to Tweedy for sticking it out for the rest of the show.

It’s not unusual for Tweedy to end a solo show with an acoustic performance of “Acuff Rose”, an Uncle Tupelo hit. It’s truly a delightful experience. But, I have to say the Champaign audience did not earn that honor last night. On behalf of Tweedy and Wilco fans of Champaign-Urbana, I am sorry for how the audience acted last night and I hope you can believe they are not representative of the larger community.

Folks, remember that performers are humans, and they perform in order to share their music, thoughts, and feeling with the audience, not to be berated by doofuses. So, to those few doofuses who soured what had been a beautiful evening, please mind your manners and get your shit together or next time there will be a public tarring and feathering in order.

To the Hecklers:

“I’d like thank for you all for nothing at all.”

Top photo from Jeff Tweedy’s Twitter

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