As is becoming the tradition, Belgium’s Creature With The Atom Brain are Lanegan’s support act for tonight, and, as in previous shows, they are a worthy and interesting choice. The band play a unique strain of dark psychedelic rock with extended instrumental solos and the vocals being used as an instrument in creating a soundscape rather than leading the melody. Their guitar riffs are non-conventional rhythmically and the depth of the bass adds to the experience. The final track of the set is Transylvania, with its driving bass line complimented by a simplistic yet unusual vocal line shows how Creature With The Atom Brain at their greatest, developing dynamics with such sophistication to create an atmospheric and emotionally stirring piece of music.
The Mark Lanegan Band take to the stage encased in subdued red lighting, as the pounding drums introduce The Gravedigger’s Song, Lanegan grabs the microphone stand customarily with both hands and launches into the track wholeheartedly, clearly establishing his vision for this gig. The set continues with Sleep With Me and Hit The City, where the keys are noticeably drowning out Lanegan’s vocals, which is an utter travesty as the beauty of his voice is the rasps and soft gruffness that are prominent at the end of lines. Hit the City does miss the inimitable vocals of PJ Harvey, however, the bassist does his best to replicate them as far as possible. Wedding Dress shows Lanegan wearing his musical influences on his sleeve with the added line from Jackson by Johnny Cash, whilst moving minimally but with purpose to every beat. The lyrically beautiful One Hundred Days is fantastic, with raw emotion being expressed from beginning to end, unfortunately there are some members of the audience who seem unable to deal with the more thought provoking tracks without talking all the way through them. The set includes tracks from Lanegan’s time with Screaming Trees and some of his later solo material, however, there is a distinct absence of songs from his earlier solo work such as Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, yet on reflection, Blues Funeral is Lanegan’s most recognized album to date.
The pacier songs, such as the grower Gray Goes Black and Riot House, see the audience more focused and appreciative of the band and clearly demonstrate Lanegan’s ability to write awesomely strong blues rock as well as country led heartbreaking ballads. As the set draws to a close, I feel that the magic of the show has not been as emotional as his previous gigs partly due to some of the crowd’s inability to listen but also due to the vocal levels being so low in the mix. Needless to say though, Mark Lanegan never fails to deliver a wonderful and deeply honest performance; it is just that, for me, this didn’t reach his usual magnificence and that was due to no fault of his own.
After a very brief period off stage, Lanegan and the band return with Harborview Hospital which is a powerful yet understated track that has a lyrical darkness within a harmony of hope. Followed by the surprise song of the evening, which is a cover version of the Smoke Fairies’ Devil in my Mind. The original is a beautiful track and Lanegan manages to own the song adding a layer of gloom whilst retaining its initial exquisite simplicity. It shows an inkling of what could be created if there was a collaboration with Mark Lanegan and the Smoke Fairies. The final song of the evening is hailed in with the recognizable metronome introduction, Methamphetamine Blues; a raucous number that hammers its message into everyone in the venue. It is a perfect ending to a set which has played with dynamics, pace and emotions throughout. Lanegan leaves the stage with a brief wave of thanks, to be found minutes later signing merchandise for those who wish to meet the man, which is surprising as for years Lanegan has actively avoided publicity of any form.