Concert review by Scott McLennan.
A comfortably full Paradise Rock Club greeted Black Dub on Tuesday with a heightened reverence. At one point in between songs the silence was so complete that a bartender was shushed for rattling ice cubes.
Such is the respect commanded by Black Dub founder Daniel Lanois, the man responsible for producing career-defining albums by Bob Dylan, U2, Emmylou Harris, and Peter Gabriel, plus the intriguing new offering from Neil Young. Lanois intermittently records and performs his own music, and those projects perhaps best reveal his aesthetic that teases richness from simplicity.
Black Dub teams Lanois with longtime cohort Brian Blade -- an exceptional drummer who anchored every tune with subtle authority -- and introduces singer and multi-instrumentalist Trixie Whitley to her broadest audience to date. Like her father Chris Whitley, the 23-year old Trixie brings an earthy passion to her performances, searching more for vibe than perfection. On tour, bass player Jim Wilson has ably stepped in for Daryl Johnson, who played on Black Dub’s self-titled debut released this month.
Lanois, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in June, kept the tour opener loose, tweaking song intros with starts and stops and excusing Whitley from the encore saying she was feeling roughed up from the bouncy bus ride the band took to Boston.
That tour bruise was not the only sign indicating the generation gap between Whitley and 59-year-old Lanois. Their initial interactions on stage were more telling, as Lanois seemed bent on reading “Love Lives” as a slow-burning start to the show while Whitley came out ablaze, pushing harder and faster than the rest of the band. It took a while for the singer and musicians to settle into a comfortable working relationship that allowed her full-bodied R&B wail to work alongside the sinewy riffs and rhythms of Lanois, Blade and Wilson.
The band ultimately jelled nicely, opening up “Surely,” “Last Time” and “Nomad” to bouts of soulful exploration. And Black Dub has a sense of adventure, with Whitley playing drums and keyboards during the show, and Lanois busting out a pedal steel guitar for a segment of instrumental passages.
A long, loping “Ring the Alarm” closed the main set in a way that blended rustic and futuristic musical elements into a cohesive anthem; the band wasn’t simply coloring outside the lines, but erasing them altogether.
Lanois took the stage solo to deliver the encores “Rocky World” and “The Maker,” using prayerful tunes from older albums to send out a most reverent audience.
Rocco DeLuca opened the concert with a solo set of haunted blues fueled by raging steel-guitar work.
Scott McLennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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