This Wednesday night’s show at the venerable Commodore Ballroom was a triumph for Daniel Lanois as he worked through a mix of old and new material to a highly appreciative crowd. It was his first show in Vancouver in roughly four years, and he brought Californian Rocco Deluca along to start the evening and joined him on stage to perform as well.
Mr. Lanois holds a special place in Canadian music history. As a producer, Daniel has worked with notable performers such as Peter Gabriel, U2, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan, to enhance and inspire their work to greater success. As a solo performer, he has mined the the musical traditions of his Quebecois culture, and expanded from there to push the creative envelope in directions to create new and as yet unheard sonic landscapes. To understate the matter, his is a remarkable and noteworthy career.
On his most recent album, Flesh and Machine, there is a brilliant blend of drums and guitars and synthesizers to be heard which seem a reference to 1970’s experimental KrautRock bands (such as Can) while simultaneously bringing something uniquely fresh and “Lanois-ish” to the end result. It is certain that Brian Eno had a hand in helping Daniel find his sound over the years, no doubt he borrowed some ideas from The Edge of U2, but Daniel’s explorations here, as in his earlier offerings, tend to go much farther and deeper.
In a live venue, that distance and depth of the recorded material could falter, but under the direction of Mr. Lanois, the stage doubled as a studio, his band served as his conduits. So much of what made this show so successful had to do with production, but the production could only be this amazing with such a skillful ability to sculpt the sonic landscape.
As drummer Kyle Crane shifted through a myriad latin patterns, from samba, to mambo, to a super fast Boogaloo, and to a TON of break beats more akin to Acid House than Rock and Roll, things turned unreal once Daniel sampled Kyle and looped to double up the frenetic pace, as if drumming in a rhythm of fills with only the music allowing for occasional rests, but only in the sensible spots.
But the stage was filled with so much more than our drummer. The four and six string guitarist, Jim Wilson, switched from one to the other as needed while Mr. Lanois manned everything from guitar to synthesizer, from laptop to lap steel. The music itself shifted from the lush (Forest City) to the stripped down (a lovely acoustic version of The Maker) and every point in between.
The visual enhancements to the evening’s show were in perfect taste as film was looped behind the band and on the side screens, or occasionally replaced with live video feeds from stage members filming each other.
Between many of the songs, the lights would cut and Mr. Lanois would light his face with an old fashioned mining lamp as old story tellers would to tell us something about his music or to drop a few names. The show seemed to go for two hours not counting the opening session with Rocco, but anyone there would say that it could have easily gone another hour such was the appreciation for this performance.