Grizzled grunge survivor Mark Lanegan has long had a love affair with our fair shores. And the feeling is clearly reciprocated, with a loyal throng greeting the arrival of ‘their’ man with unbridled reverence as he steps forth into the spotlight. Tonight we’re treated to his current, stripped back band line up, a minimalist two piece accompaniment of guitar and keyboards augmented with programmed beats, a nod to his recent, electro-rock tinged leanings.
‘When Your Number Isn’t Up’, the opening track from 2004 album, ‘Bugbblegum’, set things off as an affirmation of the unique power and timbre emanating from the vocal cords of the ex- Screaming Trees front man. A heavenly concoction of gravel and molasses, his wizened baritone regularly brings chills and stands truly as an extra instrument in it’s own right.
Shortly thereafter things rise in intensity a notch, as hatted guitarist Jeff Fielder pumps out the powerful opening riff to fan fave number, ‘Hit The City’. Fielder’s innate ability to navigate the light and shade of his band-master’s vision, with exemplary six string work in turns shimmering, forceful and resplendent, makes one hardly notice that it’s only one man alone filling the room with these sounds.
The musical chemistry clearly on display is further exemplified in the moody keyboard washes and sweet co-vocal strains of the impressively tattooed Shelly Brien. And while on the subject of chemistry, her status as Lanegan’s significant other further heightens the sense of longing and pure electricity in the air (at one stage they share a warm, lip locked embrace), as the band’s ‘darkness on the edge of town’ vignettes and moodily swaying torch songs lilt and move all of those present.
Normally minimal on between-song banter, tonight sees our protagonist somewhat on the (slightly) interactive side, mixing his gratitude for the audience’s devotion with a sharper tongue towards inconsiderately noisy punters.
Highlights come thick and fast throughout the night, with selections from his 2017 album, ‘Gargoyle’, (the tenth solo studio album of his career), such as ‘Beehive’ and ‘Sister’ being experienced for the first time in the live realm for most of those present. The ominous, electro-goth chug of ‘Nocturne’ proves to be one of the nights high watermarks.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to impassioned readings of a number of tracks from 2012 album ‘Blues Funeral’, with the throbbing pulse-beat of ‘The Gravediggers Song’ and the brooding creeper, ‘Phantasmagoria Blues’ entrancing and bewitching in equal measure.
An inspired choice of cover comes in the form of Nancy Sinatra number ‘You Only Live Twice’, from the James Bond film of the same name, Lanegan’s vocal timbre perfectly suited to it’s stately bombast. And latter set highlight, ‘Don’t Forget Me’, from masterful 2001 album ‘Field Songs’, delivers a wave of never-ending goosebumps as the power and resonance of ‘that’ voice embeds itself into the hearts and minds of everyone present in the room.
And as the shadows of the night finally swallow the man and his muse, we’re left in a state of wonderment and awe, pining already for the return, next time, of the modern day ‘man in black’.