Underappreciated Musician: Nels Cline

Knew this guy was good, but seeing him live last night blew me away. Includes a short review of the show.

This guy . . .

Oh my gosh . . .

This guy DESTROYED it last night.

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We were so close that the 10° weather didn’t even bother us.

Nels Cline has been with Wilco since 2004, and from Sky Blue Sky on, The dimension he adds, in a group already packed with unbelievably talented musicians, raises the level of this band to one of the all-time greats. When you combine the songwriting skill of Jeff Tweedy with a lead guitarist like Cline, the results are legendary (not to mention the badassedness of Glenn Kotche on the drums).

Like I said, it’s obvious on the recordings that Cline is a superb player. But actually witnessing what he does firsthand during extended jam sessions, how he’s mastered the art of using just the right amount of effects, and how he mentally leaves the planet Earth while his hands command the fretboard and deliver solos so fast and intricate that they sound like they are computer generated is an experience that is unparalleled. It’s a rare treat to see a 56-year-old man rock this hard.

While there has been critical acclaim, awards, and heaps of praise from the music community, Nels Cline is hardly a name most people think of when they think of great guitarists. If there is justice in this world, that needs to change.

My wife and I were dumbstruck. Aside from watching the lead guitarist completely rule his instrument, we were treated with some of our favorite songs (“I’m the Man Who Loves You,” “California Stars,” “Jesus, Etc,” “Heavy Metal Drummer”), and some hilariously endearing rock-talk from Jeff Tweedy (after the show, my wife said, “He’s so cute!”). Wilco is one of those bands where the sum is greater than the parts. And that’s saying quite a lot, because the parts are phenomenal.

Go see them.

Here’s a performance of “Handshake Drugs” where you can get a taste of Cline’s wizardry. (I know it’s from Letterman, how dare me. Just watch the clip. You won’t regret it.)

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