Live Review: Mark Lanegan @ The Theater of the Living Arts

In my previous life, I ran a music website. (Don’t call it a blog. Please.) After ten years of working on that site I burnt out. Badly. And now on the rare occasions that I pay for concert tickets and actually leave my home and go to concerts, I’m still so hardwired that during the show I start drafting a 250-word review. Like this past weekend when we went to see my favorite singer, Mark Lanegan.

Lanegan, then the singer for the Screaming Trees, released his first solo album (“The Winding Sheet”) in 1990 and although he’s toured as a solo artist he’s never made it to Philadelphia. In the past, every Philly date scheduled has always been canceled before the show. In recent years he’s been through town with acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Twilight Singers, Gutter Twins, and Soulsavers. Lucky for me he did not cancel on Philly.

To those unfamiliar or not close followers of Lanegan’s career, it was pretty easy to discern which songs he performed were off his new album, “Blues Funeral,” and which were from previous releases: the reliance on electronics. True, they did work the keyboards into some recent but not new tunes, like some eerie effects on “One Way Street” and the heavy stomping of the industrial sounding backing track of “Methamphetamine Blues.” But it was the new tracks that were more heavily reliant on the keyboards that offered a sound that’s evolved from Lanegan’s original rather lo-fi acoustic origins.

Most remarkable was the fact that Lanegan sounds like Lanegan. Although the vocals could have been a bit louder in the mix, he sounded superb and ageless. He simply sounded fantastic with his straightforward, it-is-what-it-is delivery.

Also of note was the fact that tracks with rather significant female vocals, like “Hit The City,” which on record sees him dueting with PJ Harvey, and “Wedding Dress,” originally with Wendy Rae Fowler, were performed not only without the female vocals but without even one of Lanegan’s male band members filling in. What’s more, the complete removal of the female parts didn’t injure the integrity of the songs; it was unnoticeable, especially to the uninitiated.

True to form, Lanegan kept to the music and spoke only to say “thank you” a couple times and to introduce his four-member backing band. When the band did wrap up their set and leave the stage the wait for the band to reemerge for the encore was so laughably short it didn’t make sense why they’d left to begin with.

While there was no “Borracho,” a personal favorite of mine, there were plenty of other highlights from his more than 20 year long solo career that made for a great evening. Eight years since “Bubblegum,” his last solo album, Lanegan proves he has nothing to prove. He simply is.

Wow, exactly 500 words. All right. I still got it.

originally posted on Reverberations.

Corinne

In a previous life, Corinne ran a music website. After going strong for a decade, the site went on a hiatus. Consider her the antiTastemaker.