Daniel Lanois Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 25

Daniel Lanois Island Stage, Guelph ON, July 25
Photo: Atsuko Kobasigawa
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Screw all the crap that comes out of the tar sands, Daniel Lanois is Canada's most valuable export. For years now, the Greenbelt-based sonic explorer has held a fervent following due to his career-defining production work (think of your favourite albums by Bob Dylan, U2 and Peter Gabriel), and his otherworldly solo output, which runs the gamut from atmospheric country hymns to mind-melting ambient grooves.
 
For his Saturday night Hillside set, he brought the latter. Armed with what looked like a bare-bones effects rack and set of samplers from his studio, as well as a pair of Ampeg amp stacks, Lanois started his set by delivering the kind of ethereal, entrancing and oesophagus shaking sounds you probably heard on last year's Flesh and Machine ("Sioux Lookout" being a clear highlight for hardcore fans of the man and his music).
 
In the spirit of Hillside, Lanois said he had decided to do the set solo, but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the stage. Members of his posse — a rag-tag ensemble that looked halfway between a heist team from an early '90s crime thriller and the crew of some intergalactic outpost — would trade in and out with one another, adding an extra hand to help fully form a sound, playing a Moog as Lanois slid his hands around his pedal steel, and giving him updates on the time that was left in his set. But it was Lanois and his complex compositions that took centre stage, and being able to see them broken down and reassembled at Hillside made them sound all the better.