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Review Wed Jun 19 2013

Review: Daniel Lanois and Brokeback Get Cinematic at Millennium Park, 6/17

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Photos by Kirstie Shanley

In one of the more curious selections at the City of Chicago's Downtown Sound Series on Monday night, Thrill Jockey mainstays Brokeback opened for Canadian record producer and solo artist Daniel Lanois at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Lanois is known for producing some highly regarded albums by the likes of Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and U2; and his solo albums have received critical acclaim and respect--particularly among music industry types and other musicians. Brokeback, in its current form, is a Chicago-based instrumental rock quartet led that specializes in large, heavily layered guitar compositions that, on their most recent album, Brokeback and the Black Rock, occasionally venture off into jazz and Latin territories.

On the surface, the night's pairing seemed like pure miscellany. But it ultimately goes to prove the thoughtful expertise that goes into the Downtown Sound series programming that these two were matched together at all. On the same night that a massive 40' x 22.5' LED screen debuted behind the stage at Pritzker Pavilion, the live program chosen to break it in featured two bands with equally massive and layered sounds.

With Lanois having worked with the likes of Brian Eno on previous solo albums, I expected his band Monday night to feature some element of electronics or ambient noise. It was surprising--and slightly more impressive--to see him pulling his set off with nothing more than an intimate trio.

On songs like "The Maker," Lanois teetered back and forth between gently finger-picked electric guitar and occasional overdriven leads, while he and bassist Jim Wilson maintained careful vocal harmonies. "Duo Glide," with its motorcycle-riding protagonist and its eventual morph into an adventurous guitar exploration immediately brought to mind the serenity of Neil Young's later solo material.

Lanois changed gears halfway through the set for what he hoped would be a "cinematic moment on the steel guitar." With subtle accompaniment on drums, Lanois produced a lush sound that alternated between clean tones and beautifully washed out chords on an instrument otherwise known for its country twang. Under Lanois' watch, he made the instrument seem much larger and otherworldly in its scope and capability.

Brokeback

I first saw Brokeback a few months ago at the Hideout when they opened for guitarist William Tyler. The contrast of having seen them in the tiny back room of a bar and then outside among the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago on Pritzker Pavilion's tidy stage was fascinating. The sound might have been a little too big for its own good on Monday (the drums felt weirdly off in the mix, probably at no fault to the band), but the effect was still impresive, especially on songs from the band's latest album.

Black Rock's "Don't Worry Pigeon" has proven to be the band's most exemplary live song. What starts off as just a pleasant, instrumental number with identifiable sections gradually works itself up into an impressive frenzy of hypnotizing sound, and it did so to great effect in Monday's setting. Still, their set suffered a lack of momentum after pitting two of Black Rock's slower tracks, "Who is Bozo Texino?" and "Gold!" right next to each other.

Ultimately, the subtle similarities between Brokeback's thoughtful instrumentals and Lanois' cinematic rock were a testament to the Downtown Sound series' programming. The two bands aren't an obvious pair, but pitted against each other, and with the added backdrop of Pritzker Pavilion's giant new video screen, each band's sound lived up to the size.

Brokeback

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Daniel Lanois

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RickHap / June 19, 2013 12:49 PM

Nice photos. Small correction: The Lanois song is Duo Glide not "Do or Die"

Peyote Jill rides the night
She sees her past in starlight
She hears a voice deep inside of her
Leather strapping wheel burning power
Moves to the shimmy and tremble ride
Under the guide of her duo glide

Mark / June 19, 2013 2:42 PM

Another Lanois fan beat me to the punch!

Marc FishmanAuthor Profile Page / June 19, 2013 10:39 PM

Thanks for the correction!

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