Thursday and Friday, my friends from Tortoise were in San Francisco for a couple of days and I had a chance to hang out with them and catch the shows at the Independent. This tour was a little different since the headline act was the legendary Daniel Lanois! Ironically most people don’t know Mr. Lanois, but if you look at his list of credits, you would be more than familiar with his work as a producer with Peter Gabriel and U2. I discovered his solo work after hearing Gabriel’s US, and his album, “For the Beauty of Wynona” is still one of my all time favorite albums.
The Independent is an intimate venue that has been gaining popularity and featuring some pretty cool shows, but this was the first chance I’ve had to see a performance there. I was pleasantly surprised to see Gustavo Lanzas (old friend from Robotspeak) and his collaborator, Chris, opening the show as the act, “Audiotronic w/JK47″. The sound system at the independent was really nice and some of the bass tones from the Audiotronic performance would resonate right though your body!
Tortoise was on as the second act and featured quite a few favorite tracks. I phoned Johnny in the afternoon, before the show, and he said he his back was injured and had to see a doctor. Needless to say, i wasn’t sure how the show would be if Herndon was in pain. Apparently the doctor did an amazing job, and Johnny’s drumming was brilliant as usual.
Lanois came on and started performing a solo guitar piece on his Gibson Les Paul, and my jaw dropped when I heard the beautiful tone coming out of this instrument. This is aside from the prophetic virtuosity of Lanois’s skill as a player-That tone was amazing. He switched over to a pedal steel guitar for another solo, and he performed a lovely and emotional solo piece. Tortoise came on and joined Lanois, and it was quite a surreal experience since the two seem worlds apart, yet the collaboration seemed to fit together quite well.
I have to comment that the engineering was a little strange since you could barely hear some of the backing instruments during the Lanois show. It seemed like the engineer basically hit the mute button on Jeff’s guitar and the vibes. Shea, who does a live video presentation driven off the audio signals, confirmed that the close mics on the snares were muted. It definitely had the feel of being a different show from Tortoise.
Friday night, my cousins, Tamiko and Jasmine, joined up with us along with my friend Joe to have dinner then go to the show. We met up at this cool little bar/Ethiopian Restaurant called Club Waziema, a block down from the venue on Divisadero. It was cool to hang out with everyone, and catch up with what’s been going on. The food was pretty good as well, and we shared a variety of meat and vegetable dishes sans utensils.
Having sussed out the venue on the previous night, i brought along my camera and secured a nice position on the balcony to shoot some photos of Friday’s performance. Unfortunately, i didn’t realize how unstable the balcony is, and most of the shots were slightly blurry. I posted a few of the shots that weren’t too bad on flickr. I have to say, i enjoyed Tortoise’s performance better on Friday night better than Thursday, but Lanois was better on Thursday night, but the Friday crowd was definitely more into the show.
Afterwards, Johnny invited all of us backstage to hang out while they broke down the gear and load out. Lanois, in true rock legend form, went out of his way and introduced himself to my young cousins. Later i joked about it with Tamiko (who’s a massive U2 fan), “You touched the hand that touched Bono!” I had the chance to speak with him briefly, to thank him for the fantastic shows, and he said he was quite happy with the reception in San Francisco (sold out on both nights), and is thinking about more shows here in the future. For the Tortoise fans out there: McEntire mentioned some plans for a new Tortoise album for early next year, and possibly a box set later this year. Now all we need is for Case to come back for a reunion-ish tour.