Sunday, January 18, 2009

blues, too

This midweek madness needs to stop. But it probably won't--at least not when some of my favorite musicians are playing one of my favorite rooms.

Nels Cline Singers, Largo at the Coronet, January 14, 2009: What I didn't care to mention in my first concert report of the year is that my second (and, full disclosure, third) gig for 2009 would return me to Largo. While I was holding up the status quo, others were--fortunately--flouting it. I'm talking about the Nels Cline Singers debut at Largo at the Coronet, and in the big room, no less.

I remain, as ever, useless at reporting much about the music the trio carries off, so I'll talk about what little I can grasp.

On the whole, they played a similar set to what we saw at Cafe du Nord just a few months ago. The selections somewhat favored tracks from Nels's upcoming solo album Coward but with the odd cover and unreleased track, as well as older titles, thrown in. We saw familiar implements such as the megamouth, the spring, and the thingamagoop. We even got a little of Nels's deadpan commentary.

Nels Cline Singers, Largo at the Coronet, 1-14-09But this wasn't a typical Singers gig either. For one thing, they delivered one long set instead of the two shorter sets that usually comprise their shows. And they even had a setlist! Finally, though the trio was no less gung-ho in their playing, there was a certain seriousness to this performance that contrasted sharply with that goofy, loose air in San Francisco last November.

Perhaps my favorite song of the night was "The Angel of Angels," a sober, piercing elegy among the ferocious, complex epics Nels is better known for. At the other extreme was "He Still Carries a Torch for Her," which concluded with Nels settling on his haunches and holding to his guitar strings a creepy doll that simulated playing a stringed instrument, propelled by--I don't know what, to tell you the truth. But I'd hate to run into that doll in a dark alley.

This blog wouldn't be this blog if I didn't mention the penultimate number, "Something About David H.," performed with assistance from Jon Brion, his frequent foil on the Largo stage. Coincidentally, Jon also played on the album version of the song. Though I should know better by now, a part of me always hopes that Jon will show up at very Largo gig I see, no matter who's playing. I wasn't kept in suspense too long tonight; Jon slipped out for a second in the middle of the set to adjust his keyboards. However, I might not have otherwise figured out that his equipment was parked right in front of us.

For this song, Jon was any other ensemble player supporting Nels's vision, kicking in the swells and slacks, and adjusting accordingly. The four of them ran the gamut from the delirious to the delicate, in the end filling the big room with a fragile eeriness that suits the Coronet quite well.

Bobb Bruno opened the show with his typical supporting cast, but played a longer set than I've seen from him. Though I find it hard to describe his music, I got a sense of the song's arc and intent, amplified by the Keyshia Cole sample in the final passage.

See also:
» hear them all
» still carries a torch
» singin' songs for pimps with tailors

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