Mark Lanegan

It’s good to see Mark Lanegan back in Wolverhampton. The last time he came, it was a low key gig at the Slade Rooms in 2010, accompanied by a single guitarist. Lanegan has had a lengthy, varied and distinguished career, notably as singer with Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, as one half of The Gutter Twins (with Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs) and, most recently, dueting with Isobel Campbell on the three acclaimed albums they made together. However, tonight he is with an accomplished four-piece rock band, giving an airing to songs from his well-received new album, Blues Funeral.

The Creature with the Atom Brain

Opening the gig tonight is Belgian band, The Creature with the Atom Brain, two of whom are also members of touring Lanegan’s band. Creature are an alternative rock band, playing mostly lengthy tracks with a strong instrumental element, and their roots seem to be in 60’s and 70s psychedelia and blues-rock. Indeed, they cite Roky Erikson and his 13th Floor Elevators as a major influence. There is a strong interplay between the two guitars and they extract some great distorted guitar sounds from their instruments. They have a new album, ‘The Birds Fly Low’, to which Mark Lanegan contributed some vocals. An interesting band, well-worth checking out.

Drummer with Mark Lanegan and The Creature with the Atom Brain

Mark Lanegan seems to like to play in near darkness and tonight is no exception, with him standing in the shadows to the front of the stage, while the band behind him is well lit up. He doesn’t move much during the gig, but stands in his characteristic pose, gripping the microphone and its stand with both hands, with a look of intense concentration throughout. Even when he is not singing, you can see he is feeling the music his band is playing.

The Mark Lanegan Band

Launching straight into the opening track from Blues Funeral, with its driving bass-line and Lanegan’s trademark gravelly vocals, we are introduced to the new album, which is the main focus of the gig. The majority of songs tonight are solo and new material, with a couple of tracks taken from last year’s download-only release from the Screaming Trees’ Last Words: The Final Recordings.

The mood of the gig speeds up and slows gently throughout the show, moving seamlessly between the heavier, rockier tracks and the gentle moodier variety. Following the opening single, we are treated to a series of tracks from earlier this century, the Bubblegum era (both the full album and the accompanying EP) and Field Songs, giving us the depth of those dark-sounding resonant Lanegan staples. The pace picks up for both Gray Goes Black – with its excellent solo riff – and Quiver Syndrome, taken from the new album, which are appreciated by the crowd, who move about to the faster and more upbeat melodies. It’s not until well into the gig – after the eighth track I think – that Lanegan, a man of few words, greets the crowd, thanking them and introducing the rest of the band.

The Mark Lanegan Band

What is notable about the new album is the greater use of synths, for which the contribution of Aldo Struyf (also the singer with support band, Creature with the Atom Brain) on keyboards is notable. In particular there is one track which doesn’t fit in with the expected guitar-driven sound, Ode to Sad Disco, with its slightly sullen, 80s inspired danceable rhythm, which gives a real feeling of being thrust back into that era.

Mark Lanegan

After the encore, the night ends with Lanegan’s brief “thanks for coming and goodnight”, after which an announcement is made that there will be a signing given at the merchandise table. As ever the experience of seeing Lanegan live is alternately soothing and invigorating, a combination that I personally find really satisfying. The acclaim given to his long-established and varied career is no surprise considering the calibre of his voice, his unique delivery of songs and his material. The fans tonight are really happy with the show and the good percentage of the audience who stayed behind to give personal thanks and get a memento of the night from the man himself are testament to his popularity and good nature as a performing artist.

Set list (with original track sources)

The Gravedigger’s Song (BF)
Sleep With Me (Here Comes that Weird Chill (EP), Bubblegum era)
Hit the City (Bubblegum)
Wedding Dress (Bubblegum)
One Way Street (Field Songs)
Resurrection Song (Field Songs)
Gray Goes Black (BF)
Crawl Space (Last Words: The Final Recordings 2011 download-only Screaming Trees album)
Quiver Syndrome (BF)
One Hundred Days (Bubblegum)
Creeping Coastline of Lights (I’ll Take Care of You) (Leaving Trains cover)
Black Rose Way (Last Words: The Final Recordings 2011, Screaming Trees)
Riot in My House (BF)
Ode to Sad Disco (BF)
St Louis Elegy (BF)
Tiny Grain of Truth (BF)
Harborview Hospital (BF)
Devil in My Mind (Smoke Fairies cover)
Methamphetamine Blues (Bubblegum)

Photographs by John Bentley
Review by Rebecca Barratt and John Bentley

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