Friday, April 30, 2010

Concert Review: Mark Lanegan - Academy 2, Dublin, April 29th

Was lucky enough to get to see Mark Lanegan in the tiny environs of Academy 2 in Dublin. The venue is small and intimate, and the best thing about the venue is that the sound is excellent. Nevertheless I wasn't sure what to expect. Lanegan has no album to promote, so is this tour just a money-making exercise between recording commitments? The man clearly has no hobbies beyond music, as he appears to have been constantly recording or touring for the last 6 or 7 years!

The venue was full in anticipation of his first solo gig in Ireland for nearly 7 years. Support act Joe Echo was pleasant enough, a Northern Irish balladeer, with some good tunes and a cheery demeanour, though his voice is pretty average.
So on to the main act. Lanegan shuffled onto the stage, walking through the crowds with guitarist Dave Rosser in tow. He played a fair selection from most of his solo albums, while also touching on his collaborations with Soulsavers and Queens of the Stone Age, and also reached back to his Screaming Trees days.
The crowd was mostly pretty respectful, barring a few people chattering at the back. Lanegan himself was in pretty good voice for the most part, at least in his most comfortable range, though he struggled a little with the higher notes. He was his usual gruff self, with little between song banter, just allowing the songs themselves to do the talking.
Some of the songs were transformed in this format, in particular Little Willie John which mutated from bellowing blues on Bubblegum to a kind of muted glory here. It worked really well. Other highlights included obscure B-side Mirrored and Message to Mine. As for his Screaming Trees stuff, Where the Twain Shall Meet struggled a little with the acoustic setting but Traveller got a great reaction.
The funny thing with Lanegan which sets him apart from most artists who've been around as long as he has is that for most artists, the crowd are baying for old favourites. Not so for Mark Lanegan. If anything, the newer Field Songs / Bubblegum material got the best reaction, while older songs such as River Rise and Wild Flowers were received with polite indifference.
Just a word on Dave Rosser, he provided slightly strange sounding backing vocals to some of the tracks but was pretty much overshadowed by Lanegan, whose ability to reconnect with his older material showed a degree of vulnerability not seen since his late 90s days. A minor gripe was no new material, but he breathed new life into some of his back catalogue here, showcasing raw emotion in the likes of One Way Street and Resurrection Song.