Concerts

Wilco at Gammage Auditorium, 1/21/12

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Whether or not you enjoy a live show by Wilco rests on one crucial question: How do you feel about guitar solos?

Avant-garde jazz guitarist Nels Cline, who joined the band in 2004, certainly makes his presence known. His signature flutter defines songs like "One Wing" and "The Whole Love," and his violent, pedal-mashing noise makes songs like "Art of Almost" work. An incredibly physical guitarist, there's an insane glee in Cline's sound. Fans of the band's early alt-country roots might find the stuff excessive, but there was no denying the live centerpiece "Impossible Germany."

The song, a kind of spiky, Television-via-Grateful Dead number from the band's most laid-back record, Sky Blue Sky, has become a live staple, and for good reason. Cline's solo section, bolstered by harmonized guitar lines from Tweedy and Sansone, is one of the most soulful moments in the Wilco catalog. Cline doesn't just shred, either. He sat down with a lap steel for tender moments like "Jesus Etc," and his inventive playing gives the power pop of "Born Alone" a post-punk dignity, while "Dawned on Me" found Cline at the helm of a double-necked beast. ("Look at that guitar," Tweedy quipped.)

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.