Gig Review by Toni Woodward with Photography by Lee Allen

Walking into the Wulfrun Hall for a Mark Lanegan gig, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by the sensory onslaught of Joe Cardamone. Formerly of noise merchants The Icarus Line, Joe is pursuing his career as a solo artist creating a live performance made up of visuals, backing track and live vocals. Cardamone is a solitary figure wearing aviators standing in front of a screen that is relaying visuals which vary in topics from images of Hajj to snow scenes. His slim frame becoming part of the canvas with a hunched posture and a wide stance, predominantly side on to the audience but on some occasions facing the ever growing crowd. Joe’s voice is powerful and whilst singing he portrays elements of Layne Staley and Marilyn Manson yet when delivering spoken word he becomes more David Byrne-like. As an observer you begin to feel drawn into the visuals which make me contemplate whether I would listen to the audio alone, however, he is one of the most interesting and controversial artists I have seen in a long time.

mark lanegan (7 of 17)

After a quick changeover, mainly the removal of a screen, Duke Garwood takes to the stage, again, as a lone form shrouded in red light and produces a radically different sound and experience. Beginning with Sometimes, you fully appreciate the noise that Garwood can create from a sole guitar. Garwood’s serene baritone voice has a richness that is rare to experience in a live environment, add to this his ability to produce such descriptive lyrics and you have a sublime encounter. Whilst playing, Duke has his eyes closed as if he is reliving the moment that he has written about. Each song is an utter joy to hear, and it is his ability to create an intimate atmosphere in a larger venue that holds the growing audience’s attention which is no mean feat by a solo artist playing such mellow music. During Blue, I did start to wish that I could be sitting on a large sofa with a glass of red wine in hand as that would be the ideal scenario in which to hear such subtle and beautifully executed songs. Certainly Heavy Love sent goose bumps up my spine with the complete exquisiteness that the music conveys. Before leaving the stage, Duke Garwood informs us that our “patience will be rewarded”, however, I have not needed to be patient as I have already enjoyed an awesome set.

duke garwood (8 of 12)

duke garwood (12 of 12)

duke garwood (7 of 12)

Before he starts playing, Mark Lanegan demands that the minimal onstage lighting be dimmed even more and when he is satisfied he begins his ninety minute set with Death’s Head Tattoo from his latest album Gargoyle. Lanegan has changed from being an artist that rarely played live to one that is incredibly prolific and appears to spend the majority of his time on tour, yet his onstage stance has never altered; all dressed in black grasping on to the microphone stand with both hands moving in time to the music. As soon as he opens his mouth you appreciate what a remarkable voice he has, with obvious comparisons being drawn with legends such as Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits yet he holds a unique quality within that. The Gravedigger’s Song shows how deft Lanegan is at producing gutsy, heavier tracks as the weight of the driving rhythm resonates around the venue and sees most of the crowd moving their heads in time. The set consists of tracks from Gargoyle, Phantom Radio and 6 Music listeners’ favourite Blues Funeral plus a couple of welcome forays into Bubblegum.

mark lanegan (4 of 17)

mark lanegan (15 of 17)

Lanegan has a superb band ranging from Jeff Fielder, whose delectable guitar solo in One Hundred Days is applauded by Mark himself, to the talented Aldo Struyf from Creature With The Atom Brain on keyboard and guitar, all of which are such a well-rehearsed and slick unit that each song flows without a hitch. There is a new inclusion into the band in the form of a female backing vocalist, who unfortunately is not in the same league as the other musicians. Her harmonies are consistently slightly flat and as she is taking the role of such accomplished vocalists as PJ Harvey and Isobel Campbell she hasn’t got the power or sensitivity to fill such imposing shoes, yet she brings a smile to the usually sullen Lanegan face. Moving to remove his glasses and drink some water, it appears that Lanegan has a limp yet his limited movement on stage is increased noticeably at the end of Harborview Hospital where he hits the microphone stand in time with the ending bass notes. The electronic feel to the Blues Funeral album didn’t initially resonate with me, yet as time progresses my appreciation of the songs grow and this is in part to the live performance. The weight of the drums on Ode To Sad Disco with the intricacy of Fielder’s guitar part brings out a depth to the song and as “Gloria” reverberates around the Wulfrun, the inner dominance of Lanegan’s vocals reign supreme. Mark Lanegan’s vocal prowess and songwriting skill is demonstrated by his ability to adapt from the noisier tracks such as Riot In My House to the quieter and emotionally evocative One Hundred Days without batting an eyelid, giving each track the sentiment required. The main set finishes with the pounding Methamphetamine Blues and repetitive lyrics of “rollin’ just to keep on rollin’” that sees the audience produce enthusiastic applause as the band make a brief exit.

mark lanegan (2 of 17)

mark lanegan (14 of 17)

The encore begins with the heavenly gut-wrenching, Torn Red Heart, that’s delicacy is embraced and heightened by the bass player’s superlative backing vocals which makes me question why his vocal talent isn’t exploited more as the smooth qualities are a perfect contrast to the ruggedness of Lanegan. The two final tracks are Joy Division covers. Beginning with Atmosphere, the sound produced is authentic to the original and illustrates the precise skills of the drummer, the dream-like ambience is shattered by the distinctive opening guitar riff of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Both of the cover versions are fantastic, yet, there is an element of Manchester resentment that wells inside and I wish he would have covered a Midlands based band instead, maybe a Zeppelin or Sabbath cover. It is the vibration of the floor as the crowd stamp their feet and clap for more as the band exit, knowing it is futile, however as Jeff Fielder is left he is evidently moved by the depth of appreciation.

mark lanegan (11 of 17)

It is rare that you can watch three artists who are all mind-blowing in varying ways, but tonight has been an exceptional display of musicianship and artistry.

See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

Leave a Reply