I was so pleased to note that last Thursday was a truly glorious weather day here in Seattle: sunny skies, a warm 60+ degrees, with nary a drop of our infamous gloomy rain in sight. It was only fitting that the weather gods gave a kind greeting to Tweedy as their tour buses rolled in to park alongside the popcorn-scented Neptune Theater, because they bring an awful lot of good with them to us. Tweedy is the father-and-son musical team of Jeff and Spencer Tweedy, Jeff being best known for his 20-year leadership of the marvelous band Wilco, and for being a brilliant songwriter, swoon-worthy singer, and rather excellent musician. Spencer is also a impressively accomplished person, and at 19 years of age has already developed seriously exceptional skills as a published writer, photographer, and musician. I don't drop these big ol' positive descriptive adjectives around lightly, my friends, so heed my effusion: if you didn't know it, these two are the real creative deal. It was my great pleasure to see Tweedy LIVE IN CONCERT and to photograph said concert with my large camera device.

Opening the show was The Minus 5, a band with more revolving/ex-members than there are numeric places in pi. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the constant in the band is leader Scott McCaughey, a fixture in the Pacific Northwest music scene for nearly 118 years. Well, OK, that is quite a bit of an exaggeration, but he's been around long enough to have earned the high respect of many, many fellow musicians such as Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck (performing in band this evening) and -- hey! -- Jeff Tweedy, who teased/praised McCaughey with great affection during Tweedy's set. The essence of McCaughey is that he simply loves music, and his infectious smile and energy playing to his locals was delightful to see.

(Click on the photos to enlarge, and click on the Flickr set link to see more!)

The Minus 5, Neptune Theater, Seattle, WA. 3/12/15 Flickr set

It's not a given that family members who make music will make good musical partners. Case in point: Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks, whose unique brotherly blending of musical brains and brawn over 30 years made for some of the best records ever, yet in the end destroyed the band and any kind of a functional personal relationship they would ever have. Ditto for The Everly Brothers. And everyone knows the Frank Sinatra, Jr. Phenomenon, where a reasonably-talented child can never "live up to" the super-talented parent and you feel bad for pretty much everyone involved. These sad scenarios will never be any issue for the Tweedy family, so you may breathe a sigh of relief. It's all good.

Actually, it's way better than good. This family, having recently been through some major punches to the gut with the death of one of Jeff's brothers and a cancer diagnosis for Sue Miller Tweedy (Spencer's mom and Jeff's wife) relies on music to heal. Writing, recording, and performing music seems therapeutic for the Tweedys, a healthy way to both go further into emotions as well as keep them from being overwhelming. Sukierae, the title of Tweedy's 2014 debut album and an affectionate nickname for Sue, perhaps provided a haven of sorts for the father and son: a way to stay close in a time of uncertainly and loss, a creative outlet, a project to focus on, something good coming from difficult times. The result was an understated and charming record of depth, and one of my favorites of last year.

In forming the touring band for Sukierae, Jeff and Spencer extended the family feeling to the stage. Bassist Darin Gray grew up with Jeff in downstate Illinois. Youthful sibs Liam (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Sima (vocals) Cunningham are long-time Tweedy family friends. And they've all asked the very amazing British guitarist Jim Elkington to tea, metaphorically or maybe in actuality. The relaxed vibe worked out in one especially enjoyable way: I've never seen Jeff Tweedy more interactive with an audience here, nor more flat-out funny. I mean, even when he's crabby he's witty about it, but he was really on his game at the Neptune, and even better, seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself.

Spencer Tweedy's quiet stage presence was an interesting contrast to his father's frontman style. He made only a few off-mic asides to his dad's repartee, and gave shy smiles and waves to the crowd. As a drummer, he was precise, detailed, always finding the right amount of drive or restraint needed for each song. He often seemed to be profoundly absorbed within the songs, eyes closed, but every so often glancing over to the elder Tweedy, checking in. 

The show was structured to feature the full band first, playing most of the songs from Sukierae, and a cover of "Love Like A Wire" by the late singer-songwriter Diane Izzo. Afterwards, Jeff Tweedy returned to perform a generous solo set, beginning with the heart-crushing and beautiful "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." Spencer came back onstage to join Dad for what is arguably Wilco's best-loved song, "Heavy Metal Drummer," and the full band ended the show with Sukierae's "Please Don't Let Me Be So Understood," and Jeff Tweedy-penned "Only The Lord Knows," from Mavis Staples' wonderful You Are Not Alone album. The warmth given by the performers to the audience was gratefully received, and given back in waves of cheers and claps, woops and yells, calls for "more!" and what seemed to be one great communal smile. Except for maybe the one guy in the front whom Jeff Tweedy hilariously singled out in a Seinfeld-ish observation as having been "dragged there by his wife." But even he ended up grinning, and Jeff couldn't help but apologize for pulling his leg, and walked up to shake his hand. It was that kind of night: sweet, but not too sweet. A family kind of thing.

Tweedy continues their tour this month to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tuscan, Santa Fe, and Denver. GO!

A thousand thanks to the Neptune Theater and staff, STG Presents, Spencer Tweedy, and of course The Minus 5 and Tweedy!