Friday, September 10, 2004

Nels nights

The last couple of nights, I caught the Nels Cline Singers at Bruno's. Cool bar, awesome room, and great tunes, though I was kinda drifting off toward the end. It was also a different crowd than I'm used to, but overall, it was a great experience, and I'd do it again. Here's the review I posted elsewhere:

First off, there are no singers, lest you were expecting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Instead, you'll find three musicians: an upright bass with an accompanying player, a drummer with nearly as many gadgets as Glenn Kotche, and a guitarist with lots of effects pedals.

I'd be lying if I said I'd have checked out the band if there weren't a Wilco connection. But after hearing and seeing Nels's contributions to the current touring lineup, I had to find out for myself what the man was capable of outside of Wilco's song structure. The band played a lot of stuff from the new album, The Giant Pin, which is now set for release next month. Those who attended the shows got a chance to buy the CD now, and I did so. To my delight, it turns out that Jon Brion played on two tracks--icing on the cake. Anyway, standout tracks include "He Still Carries a Torch for Her" and "Something About David H," but the band did older stuff as well. But I can't tell you anything about those songs--sorry!

As many [members of this board] have already commented, there's an undeniable jazz component to the Nels Cline Singers, but that's only a portion of their range. The group covered a wide set of styles and sounds, from the beautifully transcendent to the aggressive and rocking to outright wankery--sometimes all in a single song. As a Wilco fan, it's hard not to listen for the elements that Nels brings to Wilco. I could pick out parts and ideas that he uses for "Poor Places," "Spiders," and "I'm a Wheel," among others. But even those moments were fleeting notes in four sets spanning two evenings.

As a front man, Nels is very capable and engaging. He claimed to have no anecdotes, but he provided fun banter and kept the evening moving along. He definitely led the other two band members with visual cues, though it was obvious they were all working with each other.

The Nels Cline Singers probably won't appeal to all Wilco fans, but like On Fillmore, it's a revealing look into the influences that will most likely continue to push Wilco's sound along.

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