LIVE: Nels Cline & Julian Lage @ The Egg, 11/20/14

Nels Cline and Julian Lage
Nels Cline and Julian Lage

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Bender Melon

“This is gonna be, well, what it is. It’s out of our wheelhouse. But I’m a sentimental man, and today is Duane Allman’s birthday,” Wilco guitarslinger Nels Cline admitted as he and fellow guitar great Julian Lage sat down and eased into “Little Martha” for their encore at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last month.

Unexpected? Oh yeah, but when these two fretmasters get together, it’s best to throw expectations out the window and just sit back and soak it all up, as you learned if you caught their Nippertown debut at Wilco’s 2013 Solid Sound fest at MASS MoCA.

The concert at The Egg was Lage’s third area appearance of the year, having previous played duets with Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers at Saratoga Arts in April and then as a member of Eric Harland’s Voyager at Skidmore College’s Zankel Center in September.

Wilco hasn’t played the Local 518 this year nor had Cline, but you could almost have collected the whole set of Wilco bandmembers with their individual performances this year – Jeff Tweedy at Mountain Jam and with Tweedy at the Calvin Theatre; John Stirratt and Pat Sansone with Autumn Defense at Club Helsinki; Glenn Kotche with Bang On a Can at MASS MoCA.

At The Egg, the ax masters sat half facing the audience, and half facing each other, and the resulting 100-minute performance was like an intimate conversation between two old friends – chatting, whispering, laughing, and at times even arguing a bit, although it never turned into a shouting match.

The 58-year-old Cline and the 26-year-old Lage are a generation apart, but they seemed to have some kind of Vulcan mindmeld going on, each slithering off down their private paths less traveled, only to snap back in a glorious harmonic chord or a rapid-fire harmony riff with split-second timing.

Lage was battling a bad allergy attack, and he frequently plucked tissues from the box at his feet, often several times in the midst of a single song. In fact, as he explained at the beginning of the evening, “It’s sort of a trio tonight with this box of tissues.”

And true to form, as the guitarists were leaving the stage following the hymn-like “Freesia/The Bond” showcloser, Cline bent down, picked up the box of Kleenex and gave it a bow.

Blues, Too
Whispers From Eve
Abstract 12
The Scent of Light
Brief Hesitation (Jimmy Giuffre)
Freesia/The Bond
Little Martha (Allman Brothers Band)

Nels Cline
Nels Cline
Julian Lage
Julian Lage
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