Mark Lanegan at the Forum
It’s a solid fifty minutes or so into his set that Mark Lanegan peers out from behind the mop of hair half covering his famously world-weary facial features and acknowledges the enormous audience in front of him, gutturally intoning: “Thank you for coming out”. Lanegan has never been famous for his raconteur skills, and this evening is no exception.
Slinking with little fanfare on to the stage, he and his band launch into previous single The Grave Diggers Song and do little else other than play song after song for the next ninety minutes, which is no bad thing at all.
The set is primarily made up of material from his previous two albums (Bubblegum and Blues Funeral) with the occasional oldie or B-side thrown in for good measure. They even play Hanging Tree, Lanegan’s signature track from his time in desert rock titans Queens of the Stone Age.
As a front man, Lanegan doesn’t exude charisma. His music focuses on the darker, meaner, harder more nightmarish side of life and love; his songs sounding like what would have happened if Johnny Cash had been born of the mid 90s grunge scene. He hardly says anything, he hardly looks at anybody, he hardly moves and the thought of him smiling is positively alien. In short, he’s a pretty intense presence.
This isn’t the point, however. Lanegan is about one thing and one thing only – his voice. Totally unlike anything else in music, the closest comparison would be Tom Waits, but somehow Mark Lanegan has taken his whiskey-stained, tobacco growl even deeper into the abyss. There are so many layers of bass, rust and pain coursing through it that it’s almost impossible to figure out how the hell a human being can produce a sound like it. If singers use their voices like musical instruments, Lanegan uses his like an orchestra that’s been filled with lead and the sound was superb.
An honourable mention must go out to the bands’ Johnny Cash look-alike guitarist, who was utterly mind-blowing. Making up for the front man’s lack of energy by pouring every ounce of himself into the performance, particularly during the evening’s final song Methamphetamine Blues, the axeman pulled some seriously insane noises out of his guitar.
Despite the effect of hearing “that” voice in person and an excellent performance all round, it wasn’t a great deal more than simply listening to one of his CD’s extremely loudly in a massive room surrounded by people.
For more information about the music of Mark Lanegan visit his website.
Watch the video for The Grave Digger’s Song here: