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Reviews: Mark Lanegan at Bristol Academy

In February, Mark Lanegan released ‘Blues Funeral’ to a resounding critical acclaim. His first solo effort in 8 long years, and already a contender for ‘Album of the Year’, and this tour will be the first airings of his superb new effort. Needless to say the anticipation in the Academy is high. However for the past 8 years Lanegan has made a name for himself by lending his vocal talents to other artists (Isobel Campbell, Queens Of The Stone Age, Bomb The Bass, UNKLE etc the list goes on and on) so it seems only logical that the support tonight are another of his family of contributors.

Creature With The Atom Brain start with a small crowd of beer drinking and ‘devout must-be-at-the-front-barrier-for-lanegan-ers’, but the crowd soon grows as their set kicks into gear. They play for half an hour, taking the majority of their set from 2009’s ‘Transylvania’. It’s a storming set, and the band are as tight as any band i’ve ever seen. Their set is infectious enough to garner and ever expanding crowd of foot-stompers, head-bobbers and body-swayers. ‘I Rise The Moon’ is a crowning piece in their set, the Millionaire influence clearly on show. They are perfect opener for Lanegan, and their set received a warm ovation upon their leaving. The only minor disappointment was the lack of Mr. Lanegan singing on the title track of their last album (of which he does on the album), but this is only a minor drop in a sea of desert rock groove. 

After a short wait the lights go down again and the crowd begins to cheer (one guy instantly begins screaming for ‘Track 9’). After a second or so delay the man himself graces the stage. Walking out with a swagger only reserved for the coolest few, and then a second of silence. The room then begins to quiver as his cigarette ravaged voice breaks in to ‘When Your Number Isn’t Up’. Lit by a dim, and sedated red light, there isn’t might in the way of show here, but this isn’t about that. This is about Lanegan and THAT voice. The voice that now rasping  its way through  a new track, becoming the audience to ‘Sleep With Me’. A duo of new and old hit singles in ‘The Gravediggers Song’ and ‘Hit The City’ have the crowd erupting in applause, and these songs sounds truly fantastic live. There is a great mix of old and new here, even including a Screaming Trees cover for the older fans (of which there are many).

Mark stays largely motionless throughout the gig, gripping the mic stand like a life support machine, only braking his grasp when the music stops. He is a very daunting and ominous stage presence, with a power and effortless cool. At the end of each song he would nod to the crowd to signal the end of clapping… complete control. During Bubblegum favorite ‘Wedding Dress’ some over excited fans throw some call-cards on stage, he slowly glances down at them with a look that would scare the living shit out of Chuck Norris.

A guitarist who looks spookily like Johnny Cash. Forget Dylan Goes Electric, this is Cash goes Batshit. He thrashes at the guitar with a vigor and technical proficiency that few will ever master. His work on ‘Tiny Grain Of Truth’ and ‘Riot In My House’ are most noticeable as he generates a an epic sense of of grandeur. He wins the MVP award for the Band part of the Mark Lanegan band.

During the set it becomes apparent that his newer music a more uplifting tenor than previous efforts. Especially live, songs like ‘Ode To Sad Disco’ and ‘Harbourview Hospital’ really have a sense of uplift to them. (As a side note here, Harbourview Hospital was apparently the aforementioned Track 9, guy went ballistic). It seems that for now at least his more moody sound might be on sabbatical. As uplifting as they are they mix incredibly well with the old with the older mooder songs creating a strange oxymoronic state of Happy/Sad (to reference a Lanegan favorite in Tim Buckley). After the mandatory encore, he returns to play ‘Tiny Grain Of Truth’ and ‘Methamphetamine Blues’ both receive thunderous applause.

Overall this was a fantastic gig, his music and presence is utterly mesmerizing. The music moulds effortlessly around the vocals, forming a bludgeon which knocks one into a complete state of complete flux. A great gig is topped off by the man himself waiting behind after the gig to sign merch. A very good night.

… and as an extra titbit for Reading Festival fans, at the meet and greet after the show I approached the topic of a potential Reading appearance this year. He gave a wry smile and said “we’ll almost definitely be there”. That for what you will…



Author: david

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