October 18, 2005 – Neumo's – Seattle, WA
by Christopher Mulally
The first time I heard Daniel Lanois’ new album, Belladonna, I was riding in the car with my friend Nate. “I have been listening to this song all day,” he said to me, as he clicked his CD player to one of the remaining tunes on the album. After only about ten seconds of listening to the song, Nate said “This one is my favorite too,” and quickly switched it to another, and kept repeating that over and over again until we got to our destination.
There, we proceeded to talk about Lanois and the fact he produced a couple U2 albums and worked with Brian Eno and is now on a tour with backing band Tortoise. Lanois was the headlining act at Neumos on Tuesday, Oct. 17. His patient songwriting style and voice that resembled Eric Clapton, was complemented ten times richer with Tortoise. Tortoise also opened, and their double-drummer, synth-easy, bass-cool sophisticated experimental rock inspired not a yawn as the evening crawled on.
Tortoise is one of the most respected current experimental rock bands in the world. Formed loosely by Doug McCombs (bass) and Johnny “Machine” Herndon (drums) in 88, Tortoise is a singer-less (thank God!) quintet that has produced five albums from 1994’s self-title on Thrill Jockey to 2003’s It’s All Around You. The new songs at Neumo's on Tuesday were true works of art, a melding of clear and complicated sounds, some unexpected stuff and very, very rhythmic movings. After all, isn’t that what music started as? A click of two stones together in the desert? A little ass shake and a rhythm revolution?
Right after Tortoise ended their set, Lanois started playing solo on his Les Paul. His tunes were bluesy, and folk centered. He took numerous requests, including “Shine,” an anthem of sorts, “Rocky Road” and others from different points of his solo career. His notes were very accurate, and every song seemed plucked right from the CD, spotless and effortless.
After a few songs, he invited Tortoise back on stage, and they played an unbelievable jam that they conceived together in Chicago. Later, he addressed the crowd with a fond farewell, before plunging into the final songs of his set. “I am going to play some lap-steel guitar songs I have been working on for you guys, and then we should all go home and hit the sack,” he said with humble smile. He finished his set from the right corner of the stage, the light bleeding down on his receding hairline, half the audience gone, the others in throws of love.