But when it came for Golden Smog's current tour, the Wilco front man was nowhere to be found. Would remaining members Dan Murphy, moonlighting from his regular gig with Soul Asylum, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, both from The Jayhawks, and Kraig Johnson (once upon a time with Run Westy Run) carry on without the best known member of the group in concert?
Truth to be told, a definite yes.
What mattered most before a small crowd of about 225 people (a third of a house) was the amount of quality songs that the Smog have in their repertoire.
The group, augmented by a touring keyboardist and drummer, played about half of the new disc, "Another Fine Day," their first disc in eight years, which is more rocking and less rootsy than previous efforts.
Johnson and Louris handled most of the singing chores with Louris in particular adding more depth to the songs with his higher-pitched voice. Louris, who displayed a good sense of humor, gives the songs more of a rootsy/Jayhawks feel when he sang. Murphy added a bit of vocal spark to the more rocking songs.
The diversity of voices added to the quality of the music.
Louris also turned in strong covers of "Easy to Be Hard" from "Hair" and especially David Bowie's "Starman."
The only downside was when they got a bit too lose doing snippets of such songs as Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" and Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" perhaps just to show they just had some knowledge of music, but it didn't really open doors into what makes Golden Smog tick.
But that was about the only off part of the 105-minute show where strong singing and playing made fans wonder "Jeff who?" Tim O'Reagan, drummer of The Jayhawks, opened the show with a hour-plus set mainly of softer material. O'Reagan came out from behind the drums the entire set to play guitar. He's a decent enough singer, and his band boasted former Son Volter Jim Boquist on guitar, who's a mainstay.
But while cooking at the end with a few rockers, the set lasted too long because neither performer nor music were interesting enough to consume more than an hour.