Jeff Tweedy Discusses Fans’ Reaction To Wilco Covering Grateful Dead

"I don't know if I've ever seen a reaction like that from such a sizable portion from the audience."

By Scott Bernstein Nov 22, 2022 12:08 pm PST

Wilco debuted a cover of the Grateful Dead's “U.S. Blues” on September 10 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and went on to perform the song 15 more times over the remainder of their tour. Frontman Jeff Tweedy spoke about the huge reaction to Wilco’s premiere “U.S. Blues” performance in a Grammy.com interview published today.

Both Tweedy and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline teamed with Phil Lesh & Friends for a Philco performance at the inaugural Sacred Rose Festival at SeatGeek Stadium near Chicago on August 26. “U.S. Blues” was sung by Jeff Tweedy as the penultimate song of the ensemble’s first of two Philco sets.

Jeff Tweedy was struck by how similar the words to the Dead song are to material on Wilco’s 2022 album, Cruel Country. “When we got back to the Wilco tour, Nels and I were playing [“U.S. Blues”] in the dressing room again. It just sounded like something that fit in with the lyrics of Cruel Country; it has a similar commentary on the brokenness of the community,” Tweedy told Grammy.com’s Morgan Enos. “And musically, it felt right in our wheelhouse, so we just kept playing it. It’s fun.”

While interviewer Morgan Enos admitted he was unfamiliar with “U.S. Blues,” Tweedy noted there was no denying a large swath of Wilco fans knew the tune. “Boy, it really highlights and underlines the people in the audience who have that vocabulary,” Jeff noted. “When we play that song, it’s amazing. There’s a fair amount of crossover with our fans, it seems like.”

“When we kicked into that song the first time we did it, in an encore, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reaction like that from such a sizable portion from the audience,” Tweedy added. Watch Wilco perform “U.S. Blues” in New Orleans on October 4 below:


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Jeff Tweedy also discussed other covers Wilco plays, Cruel Country and much more with Enos. Head to Grammy.com to read the full interview.

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