I heard that Mark Lanegan was playing in Bristol on January 27th, we checked our schedules and we were not working so we kindly accepted the offer of a couple of guestlist places to stop by and check out the gig.
The odds were heavily stacked against us, not only was the M5 motorway closed just outside Exeter, the traffic was backed up so badly, we were stuck in a jam for at least half an hour, would we make it in time to see Mr Lanegan perform, read on to find out….
We arrived at the car park situated next door to the O2 with just 15 minutes before the doors opened, just about enough time to grab some food and get ready for the evenings entertainment. The O2 in Bristol is a nice venue, not a great venue, but a nice venue, the main room holding a good few hundred people, to the sides were staircases that took you to the main balcony and behind that, a sub balcony which didn’t offer the best views of the stage. The only criticism I would add was that unless you were stood against the balcony railings, you were not guaranteed a good view at all and if you had the misfortune to be standing behind Mr & Mrs Tall from Lankyshire in Scotland, you were screwed. Luckily for me and my trustee companion, we were nestled nicely behind a couple who were not at the front of the queue when the big man was dishing out height, making it a far more enjoyable experience for us.
Sean & Zander (Messrs Wheeler and Schloss) took to the stage slightly later than planned, announcing that they had come over with Mark to play us some songs from the Californian desert, referred to as ‘The Legendary Duo’ they launched into their opening song. Resembling a young Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction) and an older looking Dave Myers (one of the Hairy Bikers), they soon proved that they had what it takes to entertain and wow the crowd with Sean’s gravelly vocal tones and Zander’s killer acoustic guitar work.
The duo performed a stunning range of folk, country, pop, ragtime, bluegrass and gospel and later on in the set, Zander whipped out his ‘bouzouki’ which is a Greek stringed instrument, similar to a mandolin but pitched lower, by christ could he play this thing! he stayed with this instrument for a good 4 songs, proving that he was the daddy! In-between tracks, Sean would interject with witty anecdotes including a piece on Henry Winkler in the Fonz saying that he used to wear leather jackets and ride an American motorcycle, the last time he saw an episode of the later ‘Happy Days’, he was pottering about on a Japanese bike, how times change! He then asked the crowd if Henry Winkler was dead or alive and dedicated the next song to him, regardless of the answer….
They played songs dedicated to anyone who was in the grips of addiction, they played songs dedicated to Joe Strummer (whom which Zander had previously worked with), they ended their set with a spiritual cover version which included some impressive ‘surround sound’ audience participation, wrapping up a great set from ‘The Legendary Duo’.
Do yourselves a favour, go check them out right now, you can thank me later….
After a brief period of change on the stage, guitars were tuned, the low (photographers nightmare) red lights were raised and on walked Mark Lanegan with his guitarist and fired straight into ‘When Your Number Isn’t Up’, taking the near capacity crowd back to 2004 and his acclaimed solo album ‘Bubblegum’. He was fixed to the spot, gripping his mic stand with both hands whilst his eery baritone floated over the lightly distorted guitar. Lanegan and his guitarist stayed as they were for the first 4 songs which included awesome renditions of ’Judgement Time’ and ‘The Wild People’ before the remainder of his band joined them on stage to take things up a notch or 5. His usual bass player had to remain back in the USA with appendicitis, replaced on the tour by the talented multi-instrumentalist, Zander (from the support act Sean & Zander) who looked to be doing a sterling job.
They fired into ‘No Bells on Sunday’ which sounded great, full, rich, just what the audience were craving after the brooding, melancholy opening tracks.
Lanegan is a man of few words, it wasn’t until well into the set that he uttered a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the crowd and immediately launched into the next song. Midway through the set, whilst the guitarist was tuning, a brave soul from the crowd shouted “Talk to us Mark”, to which he replied, “I knew there was something missing, sorry about that” and again, waded headfirst into another offering from his brilliant new album ‘Phantom Radio’.
Some of his classics were scattered amongst the setlist, ‘Quiver Syndrome’ and ‘Hit The City’ being a couple of the standout tracks. ‘Ode to Sad Disco’ with its heavy keys and muted drums sounded more like a remix than an original track, this was a great moment during the set, the crowd really engaging with him.
More tracks from his latest album were aired, these included ‘Floor of the Ocean’, ‘Torn Red Heart’ and the 4/4 stomper that is ‘Death Trip To Tulsa’. Lanegan thanked the crowd and said how much they really do appreciate the support and promptly exited the stage. He looked pained, moved awkwardly, like he had injured his back and I did wonder for a moment whether there would be an encore. Someone said that he had been popping up after the show at the merch table to sign some autographs and chat to fans, I would honestly have put money on him NOT doing that tonight….
After a few minutes and a quick freshen up, the band returned to the stage to play a 4 track encore consisting of the classic ‘Methamphetamine Blues’, a cover of a Soulsavers track called ‘Revival’ , before closing with ‘I Am The Wolf’ and ‘The Killing Season’. After the show, the guitarist took to the microphone to thank the audience for attending and said that this had been the best gig of the tour so far, whether or not he says this at every show who knows…..either way, they rocked my world for the best part of two hours and a 23 track setlist is none too shabby either so, hat’s off to Mark Lanegan. He went on to ask that we give the band 10 minutes and they’d all see us out on the merch table in a short while….Did we stay? as much as I’d have loved to stay and speak to Mark, we had a LONG drive back home and my trustee colleague was itching to get back home so we passed on the chance, I will say that the security at the merch table was as well manned as the stage was!
This was the first time I had seen Mark Lanegan live, a colleague of mine caught him in Seattle in October 2014 and described the show much as I have above. Lanegan is a survivor, he’s battled pretty much everything there is available on this great planet of ours and has made it through to the other side, you feel this in every song that he sings, the words, his delivery, pained, honest and you know he’s speaking from experience. He’s played and collaborated with some of the best artists and bands on the planet including Queens of the Stone Age and Isobel Campbell (Belle & Sebastian), if you get an opportunity to catch him live in a town near you, drop whatever plans you have and get your ass over there, you won’t be disappointed!
Review by Steve Muscutt
1 When Your Number Isn't Up
2 Judgement Time
3 Dead on You
4 The Wild People
5 No Bells on Sunday
6 Resurrection Song
7 The Gravedigger's Song
8 Harvest Home
9 Quiver Syndrome
10 One Way Street
11 Deepest Shade (The Twilight Singers cover)
12 Hit the City
13 Ode to Sad Disco
14 Riot in My House
15 Harborview Hospital
16 Floor of the Ocean
17 Torn Red Heart
18 Sleep With Me
19 Death Trip to Tulsa
20 Methamphetamine Blues
21 Revival (Soulsavers cover)
22 I Am the Wolf
23 The Killing Season
Phantom Radio is Mark Lanegan's latest album, I just bought the very limited edition white vinyl version, it's available as a double CD too.... He's also releasing a CD of remixes from the album, more information below.