Tortoise / David Daniell Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON July 3

An evening promising musical virtuosity delivered, offering an interesting exploration of dynamics and culminating with a brilliant set by Tortoise. Without a word, fellow Chicagoan David Daniell created compelling guitar soundscapes with layered noise manipulation and ever so subtle modulations. With Daniell sitting at a table, toggling between his guitar and a laptop, much of the room wasn’t too engaged. It’s likely that, had Daniell come to Lee’s Palace to give a talk about why it’s rude to talk while someone is performing music, Toronto would’ve talked over him then too. Up against baffled voices, Daniell ended his simmering ambient set with a roar of textures so powerful, those wagging tongues stopped to insert fingers in their ears. As expected, Tortoise remains a motherfucker. Even before the instrument swapping begins, the incredible skill of the five musicians in the band is mind-boggling. Drawing almost exclusively from their last two records — 2001’s Standards and 2004’s — Tortoise put on a rhythm clinic. Facing off on separate drum kits, principal percussionists John McEntire and John Herndon stomped into songs like "Seneca” and "Blackjack” with relish. Doug McCombs spent much of the night on electric guitar, eliciting cheers for signature lines in "Glass Museum,” while noted guitarist Jeff Parker mostly held down the bass, occasionally joining giddy percussionist Dan Bitney on vibes. Smiling self-consciously during the R&B-synth intro of "Monica” and later bearing down for an intense "Swung from the Gutters,” Tortoise clearly had fun treating an appreciative audience to their fascinating, shape-shifting songs.