Tweedy Mesmerizes Crowd at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

by Randy Shaw on October 9, 2007

On Friday night, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy played a 100-minute show for the ages at Warren Hellman’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Longtime concertgoers compared Tweedy’s performance to the finest outdoor music experience of their lives, with Tweedy mesmerizing the crowd with only his acoustic guitar. But incredibly, in Joel Selvin’s October 8 San Francisco Chronicle review of the festival, Tweedy is not even mentioned. Instead, Selvin lauds T Bone Burnett for a “triumphant Friday appearance” without mentioning that he preceded Tweedy and that his show was an erratic sounding mess. Maybe Selvin missed the Friday night shows, but anyone who saw both would recognize that Burnett’s show was forgettable while Tweedy presented a classic.

This was the 7th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and the 5th I attended. No performance in all these years has rivaled the incredible 100-minute show that Jeff Tweedy performed Friday night.

Tweedy did not have to play 100 minutes; few acts ever play more than one hour. But he was so enchanted by the darkening sky, and the gentle breeze through the trees, that he played on and on until it was pitch dark in the Park and he was forced to stop singing due to the limitations of the festival’s permit.

A performer who puts on what may have been the show of his life deserves better than to be overlooked in the San Francisco Chronicle’s only review. And so here is our thanks to Jeff Tweedy on behalf of the 10,000 who were there at the start of the show, and the couple of thousand who stayed to the end.

It was powerful and moving early evening concert that few will ever forget.

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