Whilst Daniel Lanois is an accomplished musician in his own right, he is certainly best known for his music production credits. Lanois has collaborated extensively with Brian Eno and has produced albums for artists as disparate as Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, U2 and Willie Nelson. With records as ubiquitous as Gabriel’s So and Us and U2’s The Joshua tree and Achtung Baby on his CV, there are an awful lot of people who have at least one of his albums on the shelf.
His solo works offer a contradictory ambient sound scape – at times beautiful and melodic, at times haunting and extremely intense. There’s not much 4/4 in evidence and you don’t make polite conversation over it at dinner parties. This is certainly music that is designed to be listened to. In support of his 2014 recording Flesh and Machine, Daniel Lanois played a solitary UK date at Islington Assembly Hall on 14 April.
The guest act came in the form of Californian Rocco DeLuca whose most recent self-titled album was also produced by Lanois. Daniel accompanies Rocco in his set and there is an obvious connection between the producer and his protégé. The pair played a brace of pedal steel guitars that tip-toed around DeLuca’s lonely fragile vocal. It’s a subtle blend of blues and country flavours and an ethereal portent for what is to follow.
After a short interval, Lanois returned, backed now by drummer Kyle Crane and bassist Jim Wilson, and opened with a series of instrumental washes and textures honed with multiple layers of reverb on that pedal steel guitar. The music is complemented by surrealist animations, some hand-drawn, some computer fractals on a screen that fills the back of the stage. A multi-instrumentalist, Lanois is able to drive the sound of the performance through whatever he chooses to pick up next.
He plays some gorgeous six-string electric guitar (finger picking, Mark Knopfler style) on I Love You – it’s a dreamy feel – but for much of the set he directs the music from behind a myriad of knobs and sliders on an analogue synth that looks like something Alan Turing might have knocked up in the Cold War. It’s from here that the layer upon layer of samples are mixed and coordinated and the line between musician and producer that Lanois can straddle so competently becomes blurred. This more electronic end of the Lanois spectrum is also the most intense.
In Opera, a cut from the new record, drum machines compete with Kyle Crane’s accoustic kit and fight bouts of white noise in a crashing, high-octane extended mix of the studio recording – and with this the band close out the performance. For the encore, they are rejoined by Rocco DeLuca to perform DeLuca’s Congregate, a song that is dedicated to the whole crew.
Lanois’ music has real power but it’s hard to detect the emotions of its creator – partly because producing this wall of noise takes some concentration, and partly because his eyes are hidden under the shade of his baseball cap for much of the time. The audience respond in their own ways. Some sit or lie on the floor. Some move limbs in a concession to the beat but hold short of anything that could actually be defined as dancing, a few go absolutely nuts. The one reaction that is universal to all is an awe and admiration for what’s going down, nobody was propping up the bar and talking through the quiet bits at this show.
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See the whole set here too: http://images.rockshotmagazine.com/#!/index/G0000pZnQEpLjfpU
Photography & Live Review by Simon Reed. Daniel Lanois @Islington Assembly Hall. 14/04/15.
Simon Reed has his own great site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk/