Daniel Lanois Great Hall, Toronto ON September 11

To help promote the world premiere of his new documentary film, Here Is What Is, at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lanois and friends played two sold-out shows in the city he has relocated to. A clearly thrilled Lanois kicked this two-hour one-off by introducing "my Canadian piano-playing hero, Garth Hudson,” and the legendary Band member didn’t disappoint. His extended virtuosic solo drew on blues, jazz and Bach, before he turned the spotlight back on the evening’s host. Those expecting a mellow concert à la Lanois’ acclaimed instrumental disc Belladonna may have been a little disappointed that the atmospheric pedal steel was gone. Instead, he cranked up the volume on a number of tunes in which the only accompaniment to his fiery yet still subtle playing was drummer Brian Blade. The evening turned into a virtual career retrospective, encompassing such earlier favourites as "The Maker,” "Still Water,” "The Messenger” and "Jolie Louise,” as well as introducing highly promising new songs featured in the film and likely on the solo disc he is currently recording. Lanois’ sound draws upon roots as diverse as Quebec folk, Hendrix-ian blues rock, Eno-esque ambient, and New Orleans soul/funk, but there is nothing dilettante-ish about his approach. He means it, man, and this integrity oozes through both his playing and his gently soulful voice. Of the new material, the track "Here Is What Is” was especially strong, with a riveting guest vocal from Oliver Black’s Serena Pruyn. Another guest featured briefly in the show was bassist Jocelyne Lanois, Daniel’s sister. The evening ended in triumphant fashion via an extended encore workout on another new song, a free-flowing neo-psychedelic number enhanced by more keyboard pyrotechnics from Garth Hudson. A nice visual addition to the concert came from the projections of the performance filmed by Adam Vollick, the co-director of Here Is What Is. A magical evening indeed.