Of Sonic Imagery and Canadians…

I have a not so great habit of forgetting to pay attention to who is coming into town to do shows, and so, on more than one occasion, I have found out about a show after it’s too late. I’ll be on Facebook & see pictures of Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi playing the prior evening at the Peabody Theater, two blocks from my loft (that just happened). Or I’ll be on an new artist’s website I’ve just discovered on Spotify, and check out their tour schedule, only to find that they just played around the corner two weeks ago.

Once, sitting in my studio while chatting on the phone with a friend in California, I was perusing FB (but I was totally listening to my friend, of course) and someone had just posted a picture of Eric Johnson about to start his set in the Experience Hendrix Show at the Fox Theater in Grand Center. He was playing in that very moment. I told my friend I had to go and then, 15 minutes later, I’m sitting in the front row watching Eric tear it up.
So that time worked out. But most of the time, I miss out & then I swear I’ll look up all the venues & tours and put the cool shows on my calendar for the rest of the year.

But I never do.

So the other day, I fortunately found out on the morning of the day of the show, that Daniel Lanois was playing at The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill in The Loop, StL.
And I scored tickets right away.

I have been a huge fan of Daniel’s for quite some time now.
His early career involved many collaborations with Brian Eno, which explains his penchant for creating atmospheric & ambient sonic landscapes. He went on to become the producer of albums by U2, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson and many more.
So, suffice it to say, he’s won a few Grammys. I swear that I had read somewhere a ways back that Daniel used to be married to Emmylou Harris. However, there is nothing about it on the internets. But he definitely produced her ‘Wrecking Ball” album.

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015













Daniel’s own music is what I am really in love with. Especially his instrumental compositions. Think analog marriages between vintage guitars & amplifiers meets simplistic electronic music… with an overlay of sublime production. And his main instrument is actually the pedal steel. But not your typical kind of pedal steel… more like pedal steel full of the disparate impressions of hope & immediacy. And as a singer/songwriter, his voice & lyrics are of equal quality, evoking melancholy, sincerity, & longing.

He just released, “Flesh & Machine” (listening to it as I type, of course) & it has vocals, but only as another instrument… no lyrics. It is an amazing example of his ability to create resplendent sounds that take you to the other places of your soul. Is is a wonderful organic blend of nuance & wonderment.

So, this show the other night was absolutely fantastic. Daniel- a Canadian who is one quarter Iroquois Indian- was moonlighting as the evening’s MC when he came onstage to introduce the opening act, Rocco Deluca, a Californian singer/songwriter of whom’s recordings Daniel has produced. Daniel also announced that he would be accompanying Rocco on pedal steel and that there would be art films played later in-between the sets, plus that they would be filming that evening’s show as well, projecting the images on screen in real-time, as well as creating content for a future documentary.

The two of them proceeded to play a set of interesting lyrical music that Rocco sang while playing lap steel & percussion… a foot triggered kick drum sample mostly. Rocco was an artist I was not familiar with but I am now a fan (thank you, Spotify for allowing me the convenience to check out almost anyone almost immediately).


danial lanois #1 - brad sarno

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015









After an intermission/stage change featuring interesting abstract video films, Daniel & his band took the stage. It was a loose set, as it seemed like he was choosing in the moment what to play next, and he even took a few requests. Daniel himself was singing, playing pedal steel, running EMP and occasionally played his 1953 gold top Gibson Les Paul. His guitar playing is very stream of consciousness and I am so attracted to his straight-forward technique & phrasing.

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015











Daniel looked like he just came in 1st in a Merle Haggard look-alike contest.

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015














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This made it all the more incongruous when he took his place at his electronic music station…

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015

photo by Brad Sarno © 2015













… manipulating samples & beats in tandem with the astoundingly solid drumming of Kyle Crane & the subtle support of bassist/vocalist, Jim Smith. There were also a couple of “assistants”, either swanning about the stage with a camera that projected realtime footage on two large screens,  or assisting with EMP.

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I’ve only seen Daniel perform once before in California over ten years ago but that was a different band & and a larger venue.  The Duck Room is a very small basement room & I was thrilled to have such an intimate experience with his art.

I like being into slightly obscure musics & Daniel Lanois is that kind of artist. He is worth checking out on the music subscription platform of your choice. Make sure you listen to a few albums over the course of his career as they can be either song oriented or all instrumental or both.

I am so thankful I didn’t miss this show. The fact that I found out about it last minute enhanced the experience, for some reason.

I love it when those things happen.

daniel lanois film edit


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