When a bunch of people pack themselves into Solar Culture in mid-July, things can get steamy; even the industrial-sized fan gets overheated. And there were a lot of people at the gallery last Wednesday night to see Daniel Lanois, who has produced records by U2, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Peter Gabriel, just to name a few. Tucson's own Amor warmed up the stage for Lanois, who announced a couple songs in that they were on their way to Florida to open for Dave Matthews, so they decided to do a few "rock and roll shows" along the way to practice their live show. However, the mood of the set was far from rock 'n' roll most of the night; most of the songs Lanois played were of the slow, cool, melancholic kind.
Lanois was accompanied onstage by two long-haired gentlemen on guitar and bass. A very large white balloon hovered stage right. The balloon turned out to be a screen of sorts, with projections ranging from nude women to female faces to an oscilloscope dancing to the sound waves emitted from Lanois' songs.
Lanois' solo material ranges from Brian Eno-inspired soundscapes to French-Canadian folk, and the very first instrument he learned to play was slide guitar, which he soloed on for "JJ Leaves L.A." At one point, he announced he was going to play a couple folk songs since Solar Culture had a "coffee-house atmosphere"; he then played "Jolie Lousie" from his first record, Acadie. The highlight of this show was when Lanois plugged in some kind of toy-like instrument to the board and began playing a very upbeat new song whose chorus ripped off Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover."
Lanois' last show in Tucson, at Plush in 2003, was reportedly more "rock 'n' roll"; more psychedelic and louder. Although this show was psychedelic in its own way (the purple oscilloscope helped in this regard) and loud, the strangling heat killed the rock 'n' roll in me, and I had to opt for the view from the back of the gallery for the last few songs. Luckily, the Solar Culture people installed a TV monitor, along with speakers on a live digital delay, so that the sound quality in the back was just as good as right in front of the stage.
Despite the heat, most of the audience was enraptured by Lanois, although he spent most of the show almost hiding in the shadows. But Lanois is, after all, a producer, and the show was very well-produced: creatively-projected images, excellent sound and a good flow from song to song.