Mark Lanegan at the Electric Ballroom
You may not immediately recognise his name, but Mark Lanegan’s voice is likely to ring a rusty baritone bell with anyone versed in the early output of Queens of the Stone Age, to which the singer-songwriter contributed both his considerable vocal talent and a rootsy blues influence that remains palpable in the band’s style to this day. Packing Camden’s Electric Ballroom to near-capacity for the UK leg of a world tour in support of Phantom Radio (Lanegan’s ninth solo long-player), his show, like his voice, oozes gritty authenticity from the outset.
Opener Gravedigger’s Song, cut from 2011 album Blues Funeral, presciently sets the scene for what’s to come, as a droning bass line and pounding drums combine with Lanegan’s husky yet precise vocal to create a dark and desolate soundscape that continues through the psychedelic keyboard wig out of Harvest Home and the regret-laden ballad No Bells on Sunday.
Fittingly for a pioneer of Seattle grunge (Lanegan formed and fronted scene stalwarts The Screaming Trees, and recorded an unreleased album of Leadbelly covers with Kurt Cobain), the singer’s approach to performance is completely free of contrivance or cliché. Remaining rooted to the spot in front of his mic stand, Lanegan breaks from the set only to utter the occasional thanks, or to introduce the band – uniformly adorned in black – behind him. The stoic refusal to gild the lily of a back catalogue 30 years in the making perfectly suits the brooding demon spirit evoked when that booming voice is brought to bear.
As the set nears its end, Lanegan’s impressive musical CV is showcased, with reference to his roots provided through a blistering rendition of The Screaming Tree’s Black Rose Way before (Revival, a product of Lanegan’s work with UK production duo Soulsavers) ostensibly rounds proceedings off. The latter’s final refrain “I wanna see a revival tonight/Lord, there needs to be a revival” is left hanging in the air like a menacing black cloud as the singer and his band troop off the stage to rapturous applause.
Appropriately enough, a revival follows in the form of a three-song encore that sees local troubadour and sometime Lanegan collaborator Duke Garwood join the stage for I Am the Wolf, before The Killing Season closes the show with the pick of Phantom Radio, sending those in attendance into the night with the woozy sonic throb of its melody ringing in their ears.
Photos: Zak Macro
For further information about Mark Lanegan and future events visit here.
Watch the video for The killing Season here: