Text and Photos by Daniel Corey
If you have been following DangerKatt Central for the past month, you’ll know that I have been covering the residency that Daniel Lanois and Heavy Sun have been holding at Zebulon Concert Cafe in Los Angeles. Last night marked my the fourth time attending the event, and on this occasion, I believe Lanois and the band hit a high point.
I arrived two hours early, hoping to get a good seat, but the place was already packed with people waiting for the show to start. It was a totally different crowd than the previous week; the word was out, and Angelenos were getting in on the opportunity to see this amazing band up close. The crowd proved to be a good-hearted bunch, ready for an evening of excellent music.
Heavy Sun started the set with a relatively new song, their namesake, Heavy Sun. They debuted it last week, but somehow, this time, it felt as if the vibe really took hold. The audience allowed themselves to be taken into Heavy Sun’s orbit, and the journey did not disappoint.
As always, Lanois was joined by Jim Wilson on bass and vocals, Johnny Shepherd on Hammond B3 and vocals, and Rocco DeLuca on guitar, lap steel and vocals. The harmonies were exceptionally lush as the band cycled through their collection of gospel tunes, or as Lanois calls them, “spirit” songs.
I was happy to hear the debut of a brand-new song, one that saw Lanois take to the mixing board to generate beats as the band played and harmonized along. I was told a working title for the tune afterward, but as it seems to be a work in progress, I’ll honor the band’s process and keep that under wraps. If you have read my other write-ups or followed Lanois’ career, you’ll know that he previously worked with Brian Eno to co-produce several of U2‘s albums, including the seminal 1991 outing, Achtung Baby. All I can really say at this point is that the new song’s electro-infused, spirt-rock sentiment is somewhat reminiscent of Baby‘s groundbreaking style.
What I really admire about Lanois’ and Heavy Sun’s effort is that although they are filling their shows with varied spirit songs, tunes from Daniel’s catalogue, tracks from the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack (also produced by Lanois) and new electronica, it all sounds like the same band, same album. While they are making notable stylistic leaps from number to number, everything conforms to an overall sonic palette. That’s the genius of Lanois’ vision as a producer, that he and his fellow craftsman can create a show that has an overall unity of vision.
To my ear, hymns and traditional songs lay at the heart of the bulk of Lanois’ compositions. Whether you’re hearing it on traditional instruments, electric guitar or the mixing board, you get the sense of a central, core message, a message that is the very heart of Heavy Sun: a story of spirit, connecting with something bigger, something that reaches inward and makes us better people.
Near the end of the show, I decided to go all in and took my camera to the floor, right in front of the stage. As I sat there taking photos, the band began to sing Unshaken in four-part harmony, and I realized that I was six inches from one of the main speakers. The music sheared across my face as the band transitioned to Rocco DeLuca’s Congregate, with its message of spiritual togetherness. Finally, Lanois led the band in a moving rendition of his signature song, The Maker. See video of the performance below.
As Heavy Sun took us out on the final run with Lanois’ perennial anthem, the music hitting me at point-blank range, all I could think was: this is a good life.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Rocco DeLuca for the first time, and I told him that I was sorry if I crowded him while catching my final pics. He smiled and sweetly replied, “That’s why we play here, so that we can all be together.”
Daniel Lanois and Heavy Sun will be heading out on an East Coast tour soon, which will climax in a show at the glorious Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Get your tickets now, while you still can.
- Daniel Corey