Producer Robert “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC, Foreigner, Def Leppard) has yet to put out his own record, but one can surmise what it might sound like: big, as in dense enough to rattle the windows on backstage limos at arenas. By the same token, one should be able to imagine the more intimate soundscapes that revered collaborator Daniel Lanois (Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, U2) might personally strive for. Just three albums over the course of 14 years scarcely make him prolific, but the singer-songwriter-guitarist’s latest and first in a decade, “Shine” (Anti), is yet another welcome study in the space between notes that has thankfully dictated a rare tour.
Accompanied by drummer Brian Blade and bassist-vocalist Daryl Johnson — consummate musical craftsmen in their own right — Lanois set about constructing the first of many atmospheric templates with a 10-minute version of “The Maker” from his 1989 folk-rock debut “Acadie.” Material from the stellar follow-up “For the Beauty of Wynona” (1993) was particularly well-received, as “The Messenger” and others drew rousing receptions.
Never flashy, his playing style is always in service of the music and the musicians involved (bass and drums weren’t always represented), whether he’s letting sustained guitar tones ring out over the top of the driving rhythm, cradling a gentle melody line on his first love, pedal steel, or stabbing jagged partial chords as a powerful counterpoint to his soulful singing.
He later paired that voice with his sister Jocelyne’s on a touching cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “May This Be Love,” and while Lanois, Blade and Johnson could easily carry the evening on their own, it was an added treat that the multi-Grammy-winning producer later called up some heavyweight cameos to the stage.
Marianne Faithfull walked out to sing a gorgeous rendition (after a false start that found the humbled headliner capoed in the wrong key) of an as-yet unrecorded song he wrote especially for her, “I’m Drifting.”
Even more electrifying was the unexpected addition of U2’s the Edge on vocals and guitar for a few numbers, including “Falling at Your Feet” — a lovely tune off “Shine” that just happens to feature a duet with its co-writer, U2’s Bono — and, mining a little more of that same territory, Lanois’ own take on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Lanois dedicated one instrumental to the immigrants who suffocated in a South Texas tractor-trailer last month and yet whose story was dwarfed by the latest Martha Stewart coverage, but it was the lone moment when the artist didn’t let his music do the talking.