JEFF TWEEDY at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre (427 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, March 1). $22. 416-922-4954. Rating: NNNNN
a solo show by wilco's jeff Tweedy presents a rare opportunity to experience his music the way he hears it in his head.
The drawback of a frontman like Tweedy taking off on a solo flight is that it almost always touches off breakup rumours. Especially now, since there's been gossip recently about drummer Ken Coomer leaving the band.
Well, it's true that Coomer's tenure is up, but Wilco will continue on with Jim O'Rourke sideman Glenn Kotche, who plays on most of the forthcoming album.
"I'm not really comfortable talking about it, because the band hasn't released an official statement yet," says Tweedy. "But I can say there's nothing at all personal about Ken's leaving. I love Ken, and he's a great drummer. It wasn't easy for anyone involved. He's always been a busy guy, living in Nashville and doing lots of sessions. He's probably better equipped for life after Wilco than I am."
Indeed, Coomer hasn't been twiddling his thumbs lately. He can be heard with his former Wilco compadres backing Tim Easton on his excellent The Truth About Us (New West) disc and he's on the forthcoming Billy Joe Shaver album.
And next week, Coomer's supergroup, Swag, which involves members of the Mavericks, Cheap Trick and Sixpence None the Richer, release their anticipated Catch-All (Yep Roc) debut album (see sidebar). So he's definitely busy -- he was always picking up extra work during his Wilco days. So what happened?
"Well, you do something for a while and then you don't," comments Coomer somewhat cryptically from an Atlanta studio. "That's all I can say right now. I was informed by my lawyer not to talk about who made what decision."
As for Tweedy, for the past few years he's made regular low-key appearances at Chicago's Lounge Ax, picking his way back to the soul of the Wilco sound in the presence of a lucky few. Since his partner, Sue Miller, co-owned the indie rock mecca, it was a cozy situation all around until the desirable North Lincoln Avenue property was sold and Lounge Ax, sadly, was shut down for good in January.
Instead of turning to another Chicago venue, Tweedy decided to get away from the nearly completed Wilco record for a while and take his solo act on the road. It's a chance to air new material and reacquaint himself with his songs as he knew them before the rest of the band messed with them.
"It's good to be confronted with the responsibilities involved in making a song work with just a guitar and your voice," explains Tweedy from his Chicago home. "Playing in a band context, I tend to get lazier and lazier as time goes on, and I need to do these shows to remind myself that there's still a song at the centre of it all."Tweedy is neverthless looking forward to finally completing the new Wilco album, now tentatively scheduled for June.
"There are close to 40 tracks almost finished that we can choose from," allows Tweedy, "but it's pretty obvious which are the most important 10 to put on the record. We still might throw on two others that aren't so obvious.
"We did a lot of stuff this time that was challenging for us, so I imagine it might take people some getting used to. I'm really happy with the way it's working out." *