January 30, 2011
San Francisco, CA
If Picasso were a guitarist, he would be Daniel Lanois. There are few guitarists, or musicians for that matter, operating on the same level of DL. His latest project is Black Dub, consisting of DL on guitar, Trixie Whitley singing, guitaring and occasional drumming; Daryl Johnson on bass and jazz drummer Brian Blade. For a jazz drummer, BB could be the best unknown rock drummer around. One of the best concerts that I ever saw in San Francisco was DL and BB at the Great American Music Hall. It was art. Few can do what Lanois does with a guitar, bending and shaping sounds into a song. He makes soundscapes and fashions them into poetry. And there are few drummers with better understanding of exactly what a song needs than Brian Blade.
DL is most famous for his work as a producer on some of the most archival albums of all time: U2’s The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree and All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon; Peter Gabriel’s two most successful albums So and Us; Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, Willie Nelson’s Teatro; Brandon Flower’s Flamingo, just to name a small handful. So, it was great to see him back on stage instead of behind a mixing board- especially after the motorcycle accident that delayed this tour.
Black Dub is a bit of a departure for DL since it is more roots/blues oriented than the usual sonic rock sound that he helped pioneer with Brian Eno and U2. Although I, personally, find the Black Dub album a bit constrained and incongruous at times, a little like U2 playing muddy Southern blues, it all worked much better live when the band was able to catch a groove and explore it. For a small but sprightly blonde, Trixie has a huge voice. My only complaint is that every word is sung with unrestrained enthusiasm which kind of cuts against Lanois’ brilliant, subtle touches. The highlight was when the band left and DL and drummer BB played some of his older songs. Then, Lanois reached the heights that he has shown in the past and with other artists. Still, there is a lot of promise in Black Dub and the band seems to have rejuvenated Lanois. A great show.