Jazz Festival Reviews; Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris

The evening started strangely

Daniel Lanois, the famed producer of most notably U2 fame – arrived on stage dressed as a beachcomber. That – in itself; not strange at all.

 

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What followed was a little unsettling for most at Place des Arts.

Film makers smiled yet aside from their collective orgasmic sighs – the venue was, as a whole; unnerved. The first ten minutes of a film (Adam Vollick) played out on a screen directly behind the musical set-up. The entire ‘montage’ could have been better spent on the couch watching the boob tube.  Vollick (Lanois?) delivered the same nothingness. Complete with an assumed high speed chase through trees and the lens of a camera, followed by scenes from films such as Hitchcock’s Vertigo – the audience clapped politely before berating the moment to confidants sitting arms-lengths away.

Truffaut and Hitchcock would have departed once the music began …

Began it did.

Lanois along with bass player Jim Wilson and drummer Brian Blade – commenced what the punters paid for. A set which delivered ‘that haunting U2 sound’. A sound which gave Lanois the freedom to give concerts with trees as opening acts. It was easy for a first time Lanois concert-goer to decipher the U2-Lanois connection.

The song ‘Fire’ started a slow burning blaze which concluded with the legendary Emmylou Harris on stage setting the night on fire.

Lanois is obsessed with slide guitar. Playing pedal steel or on his feet with a pick, Daniel appears to be in a state of learning his craft. Creating his craft. The opening song along with the follow-up Marie-Claire; both improvisational and ( as noted earlier) – haunting. The concentration on Lanois’ face brought glimpses into the man’s vision. Searching into a world he has yet to discover.

Brian Blade, ‘the stickman’ behind the grooves;  as crisp and professional as a drummer for Lanois should be. Lanois mentioned he was going to jam with his mates and Blade reconstructed the ghosts of Rich, Blakey and Krupa. Sometimes with speed, occasionally with finesse yet mostly with the perfect time. Enthusiasm sustained.

Jim Wilson – Blade’s running-mate and Lanois’ sometime vocal partner; carried off both duties with ample flair. Not over bearing (even as the pair joined Harris in a menage-a-vocal with the tune ‘ Calling my Children Home’), just right in his ability to jump in and back as the songs dictated. Wilson – a longtime collaborator with Lanois was at ease. A bass player with the know how to blend.

Up and comer ( some say the next Emmylou), Trixie Whitley joined Lanois for the songs; Nomad and Last Time. The latter allowing her true vocals to shine as whatever nerves appeared at first – were quickly submerged below the applause line. Rarely do singers have the ability to unearth the scales and deliver from the ‘belly’. Whitley proved she has the chops and with Lanois on her side as one of the top music producers in the business, Whitley is well on her way. The young lady also plays drums. Sitting alongside Blade – beat by beat matching the urgency and softness  required. A rising talent. An ash emerging from the Fire.

The legend arrived …

Emmylou Harris – politely; is seasoned.

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One of the true songstresses of our time who fought and stood brave at a time when music was ruled by men with less than flattering glances at women. There is Bonnie Raitt, Wanda Jackson and Harris. Each one paving the way for the Molly Thomassons, the Joan Jetts and The Heart Sisters – Anne and Nancy Wilson. Lanois was wise to produce a collaboration with Emmylou in 1995.  That album; ‘Wrecking Ball’ – on full display last night.

Harris has not lost the angel in her voice. Words surrounded the most hardened souls in attendance with innocence, bravery and experience.

Songs such as May This Be Love ( Hendrix),  Orphan Girl ( Gillian Welch) and ‘Sweet Old World’ among the chosen songs. Calling My Children Home almost ended the session. The Maker did.

Sadly the concert with Emmylou at the helm was not three hours longer.  Lanois, Wilson, Harris and Blade hit stride during the final song. A comfortably falls into every concert with every artist ( save Tiny Tim?) A groove is reached and last night – that groove was obtained during The Maker. Even Lanois’ sullen guitar smiled. Reaching notes unheard during the preceding tunes.

Following a praise bestowed for Kings – the band resurfaced and continued the continuity. ‘Sometimes’ along  with Neil Young’s Wrecking Ball – lit the final match in a fire which began two and a half hours earlier. Like a distant light burning on a shore far away – this concert was a beacon for ships travelling to Montreal for the Jazz Festival.

Lanois et al made it easy. They made it clear.

The 2014 Edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival is officially underway.

In Lanois’ words; Jazz-like …

 

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