Jeff Tweedy @ The Fillmore

In December of 1994 I caught the earliest incarnation of Wilco at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA. Back then Wilco were recovering from the split of Uncle Tupelo and very much in the embryonic stages of what would become one of the most important bands of our time. That night, Jeff Tweedy and co. played a mixed bag of UT songs, new ballads from Wilco’s first release “A.M.” and an array of other rootsy tunes. That blistering cold night on the outskirts of Boston began a decade-long (now creeping into my second decade) love for Jeff Tweedy's music. From the roots-rock of "A.M." to the sprawl of "Being There" moving along to the purity of "Mermaid Avenue" and the quirky experimentation of "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", Jeff Tweedy has fronted Wilco for over a decade, and has amassed what I firmly believe to be the strongest catalog of the past ten-plus years.

Fast forward to February of 2006. Since that winter night in ‘94, Jeff Tweedy has won a few Grammys (not that he finds pride in this), been hailed as the best songwriter of our time (ok, that may have come from me), been the feature of a critically-acclaimed rock/industry documentary and established himself as one of the most important people in music. Times have changed for Wilco and Jeff. Fortunately, this hasn't changed them or him.

Over the course of two nights at The Fillmore in San Francisco, about 1,200 fans were treated to the best of early Wilco ("Passenger Side", "Sunken Treasure"), a good portion of their Beach Boys-sound of the late 90s ("She's a Jar", "Pieholden Suite”), a smattering of Guthrie tunes ("California Stars", "Remember the Mountain"), the "new" Wilco ("Muzzle of Bees", "Theologians") and finally, a surprise for even the biggest Tweedy enthusiasts, a number of jaw-dropping back-catalog (yes, that means Uncle Tupelo) songs ("Gun", "Acuff Rose"). Yes, this was the best of Jeff Tweedy. Whether old or new, all songs were played with an earnestness and soul that few performers elicit these days. The crowds were rowdy at times and respectful and quiet at others (both nights were closed with Tweedy strumming and singing sans PA).

Jeff will finish this solo jaunt in a few days and return to the rest of the band and commence to touring the Southeast. Although I’m thrilled about the idea of Wilco heading out West at some point in 2006, I doubt that a full-band show can come close to what I experienced over two nights at The Fillmore. This was an artist I’ve now followed for well over a decade. This was an artist who not only played a huge part in cultivating and bringing life to my love for music, but who has in some ways shaped my career and life. This was an artist at the top of his game.