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Concert Fri May 09 2014
By Griffin Wenzler
Nels Cline is more fluent in music than you are with the English language. In fact, everyone in his ensemble, The Nels Cline Singers, speaks through their instruments with the eloquence and precision of America's greatest novelists. Tuesday night at Evanston's SPACE (1245 Chicago Ave.), the quartet rocked, jazzed, and freaked their way through two sets of the most soulful, energetic, human music I've heard in Chicago. The Singers, which consist of Trevor Dunn (bass), Scott Amendola (drums) and Cline (guitar) were joined by Brazilian percussionist and Cheshire Cat impressionist, Cyro Baptista.
Every time I walk away from a Singers show I feel younger and invigorated, inspired to do anything with as much passion as they put into their craft. Tuesday night I almost couldn't handle it. As they played, each song brought to mind different scenes and scenarios: a bubbly swamp, a smoky New Orleans pier, the western plains but with robots instead of cowboys. I was ready to take to the page and gush nonsense about the journey I had been taken on. But then I realized that I was imposing human order on the chaotic beauty of the natural world. That is what the Nels Cline Singers tap into. They play with such sincerity and joy that the songs are imbued with the ineffable quality of natural beauty. Baptista spent the night alternating between drumming on odds-n-ends and slinging odds-n-ends around his head as he mumbled gibberish into a vocal synth. Trevor Dunn's upright chops are other worldly. More than once, the people in front of me did cartoon double takes and stared at each other in a Bill and Ted "Excellent!" sort of way. Scott Amendola and Nels Cline shared "electronic freakout" duties alongside their doctorate level performances on drums and guitar.
The incredibly energetic performance was buttressed by the impeccable acoustics of SPACE. The owners have gone out of their way to ensure they run not just a world class performance venue for rock, but also a listening room for the jazz heads.
Nels Cline doesn't play in Chicago often, and it's too bad because his blend of experimental rock, noise, and jazz speak directly to this city's musical heart. He approaches songcraft with the joy of a child and through that his music offers something for fans of nearly any genre.