Wilco’s Nels Cline Plays Show With John Scofield in NYC – Review and Photos
Nels Cline has been Wilco‘s wild-card guitar man for a decade now. He’s Jeff Tweedy‘s ace in the hole – an unexpected and dynamic element in a band that’s employed found sounds and studio tricks to create surprising listening experiences.
The guitarist’s solo set last night – which also featured jazz guitar giant John Scofield along with the Nels Cline Singers – laid no claim on popular music. Instead, Cline led his band (which doesn’t sing a note) and Scofield on a linear journey across a set list that spanned much of his career.
The show started with ‘Lullaby for Ian,’ a warm, crawling composition that got the band in touch with each other as Cline and Scofield each ventured in for solos that wandered around the tonal center of the tune while remaining a bit restrained. By the time they transitioned into ‘Broasted’ – an early Nels Cline Trio song that the bandleader noted was dedicated to Scofield – drummer Scott Amendola and percussionist Cyro Baptista picked up the pace, chasing a groove as the tempos (and the tiny, packed room) picked up heat.
The Stone, the venue that hosted the show, occupies the corner of the last street in Manhattan’s Alphabet City neighborhood, a performance space the size of a classroom — more conducive size-wise to standing around watching someone play pool than to see a live performance. The audience must have topped out at about 60, a blissful audience size for any concert, and one that couldn’t help but lend this show a considerable amount of intimacy.
The show hit its climax with ‘Chicagoan,’ from Cline’s noisy 2001 album ‘Destroy All Nels Cline.’ Cline and Scofield joyfully jumped straight into the beat, a hard Latin funk that tilted like a carnival ride. Scofield’s too-hot-to-handle blues-driven approach recalled the best of Woodstock-era fusion guitarists. He rode right on top of the rhythm section, skimming down over the surface and occasionally grabbing big handfuls of sound.
Cline, taking a different route, burrowed into the music, pushing it apart at the seams until it all broke open into blues cacophony. After the ‘Chicagoan’ carousel was reduced to rubble, the band closed with ‘Floored,’ another funky tune that Cline and Scofield took turns dismantling. And like that, the 50-minute set was over – its climactic moments dazzling, but far too short.
Cline continues his residency at the Stone (minus Scofield, but with some very cool guests, if you’re familiar with his work) through Aug. 10. Here are some exclusive photos from last night’s show.