Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Concert review: Tweedy at the Powerstation

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Jeff and Spencer Tweedy.
Jeff and Spencer Tweedy.

"Do they have waltzes down here?" quipped Jeff Tweedy after he and band loped through the gentle Wait for Love in 3/4 time. "They've got really big back home."

Trust Jeff Tweedy to bring hot new sounds all the way from Chicago. After all, his band is so next generation. That's Tweedy's self-titled band Tweedy, not his better-known much-admired outfit Wilco.

Tweedy started out as a 2014 side-project album with teenage drumming son Spencer.

On Easter Sunday Tweedy the sextet was here finishing off an Australasian jaunt before a modest gathering at Auckland's Powerstation.

If the local Wilco fanclub, who had filled the Civic and Auckland Town Hall on past visits, stayed away because it wasn't Wilco enough, then this show offered plenty to regret non-attendance.

Yes, much of the evening may have been devoted to the Tweedy album Sukierae.

But an extended solo bracket had Jeff Tweedy performing unadorned acoustic versions of Wilco tunes, showing what those tracks may have sounded like before being put through the band's art-rock sonic workshop.

Hearing Tweedy's spartan versions of One Wing, Via Chicago and Jesus Etc wasn't just illuminating, it reminded, in absentia, of Wilco's particular magic: How the band takes Tweedy's singular singer-songwriter compositions and reshapes them into great rock music.

Oh and that the songs start out pretty great before all that happens. It was also chance for the acoustic-picking frontman to touch upon his Americana roots, including New Madrid from his pre-Wilco Uncle Tupelo days.

Live, Tweedy the band may not quite have the skills of Wilco. But there was still plenty of disarming atmospheres, guitar scorch and unsettling rhythms on live Sukierae tracks like Diamond Light Pt. 1 and the funky, fuzzy World Away, with both songs showing young Spencer Tweedy's deft drumming stretches far beyond waltzes.

The family connection didn't stop there. His younger brother Sammy made his stage debut by singing Big Star's melancholic teen ballad Thirteen quite beautifully in the show's closing stages.

And after the immediate family songs came some for the godfathers - a combo of Neil Young's The Losing End, Woody Guthrie's California Stars (as adapted by Billy Bragg and Wilco) and a tribute to David Bowie with Queen Bitch made for an enjoyably eclectic encore.

It was a great ending to a show that may not have touched the same spots as a Wilco gig.

Still a night out with the Tweedys offered plenty of low-key magic.

Read more: Jeff Tweedy talks about touring with Tweedy and life after Star Wars

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