Reviews for Ballad of the Broken Seas Live Shows

Isobel Campbell, ABC, Glasgow


Expectations were running high for Sunday night's concert as Isobel Campbell was finally joined on stage by Mark Lanegan for a performance of their Mercury-nominated album Ballad of the Broken Seas. The album itself was a breath of fresh air on its release last year; fun and smile-inducing. In a live setting, what we heard was a faithful and technically brilliant reproduction of tracks from it and, well, little more. With negligible audience interaction and absolutely not a word spoken between Campbell and Lanegan (had they had a tiff?), the evening felt flat, perfunctory and lacking in any sense of occasion.

The music itself could not be faulted. The band, including Bill Wells on bass, recreated that Billy Strange, sun-kissed sixties sound so loved by Campbell. Highlights included a great rendition of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood's Sand, her wistful vocals playing against Lanegan's bar-room growl; the delightful (Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me? and a rollicking version of Hank Williams's Ramblin' Man as an encore.


Seductive Ballad of Broken Seas
By Alex Robertson
BBC Scotland news website
Glasgow and West reporter

Theirs was an act of union delivered with harmony.
On one side of the Atlantic, childlike Isobel Campbell, breathless and subtle, and on the other the menacing, dark figure of Mark Lanegan.
Under the roof of the ABC on Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street, they united for Celtic Connections and delivered a Ballad of the Broken Seas.
Campbell, formerly of Belle and Sebastian, penned all but two songs on the Mercury nominated album.
Lanegan, formerly of the Screaming Trees and occasional Queens of the Stone Age frontman, provided Campbell's subtle collection with haunting deep vocals and one track - Revolver.
On stage together, in a rare appearance, these two opposites attracted - Campbell cautious and gentle, Lanegan direct and dangerous - to deliver a memorable set.
Murky world
The crowd reserved much of its appreciation for the mysterious Lanegan.
When he sang Campbell's songs of hopelessness and love in the backwoods he sounded like he was trying to draw her into his murky world.
Permeating his baritone and filling the hall was Campbell's high and husky melody.
Campbell and Lanegan cared for each other in a short sharp seductive set that was over too soon.
An encore was inevitable and they brought down the house with a powerful rendition of Hank Williams' Ramblin' Man.


Isobel Campbell &Amp; Mark Lanegan, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
By Ed Caesar
Published: 25 January 2007

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan are the oddest couple. Campbell: a curvy blonde, and former cellist with the maudlin Scottish folk band, Belle and Sebastian. Lanegan: the bony alumnus of the Seattle grunge rockers Screaming Trees, and, latterly, Queens of the Stone Age. Together, they recorded an album - Ballad of the Broken Seas - that sufficiently tickled the Mercury Prize judges to land Campbell and Lanegan a place on last year's shortlist. But, at this gig, it should have become clear to both musicians that it's time to start seeing other people.

Ballad of the Broken Seas is a lolling, waltzy record, full of 6/8 and country string parts. Its charm, such as it is, relies on the juxtaposition of Lanegan's basso profundo and Campbell's vapid trillings. But, if the vocal impetus belongs to Lanegan, the musical direction is all Campbell. She wrote most of the songs, and produced the album in Glasgow, while Lanegan made his contribution in LA.

Disconnected beginnings, then, and a disconnected performance. The pair only appear together on a handful of songs, both head-to-toe in black, staring straight ahead, and equally rigid in their delivery. But, while Lanegan holds a tune with guts and dart-sharp intonation, Campbell's tuning is all over the place.
Indeed, there are times when her performance borders on the disdainful. She needs sheet music for cello lines that can only be four bars long. Too much to learn for a headline London gig? Timings and lines are fluffed, and Campbell seems content to use cutesy charm to win back the audience.

The sell-out crowd is, in any case, determined to have a good time, and roars at every number. This is justified for some of Lanegan's offerings. "The Circus is Leaving Town" - a great song - is lit up by his growling refrain: "The circus is leaving town/Oh, Ruby, roll your stockings down." One can't help thinking, though, that when Lanegan sings, "You need a different beat/ you need a different tune", in the next verse, it is somewhat prophetic.

"I'm the dork of this outfit," giggles Campbell, after another slip in the middle of the set. The audience laughs. She is, after all, only telling the truth.


Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Maddy Costa
Thursday January 25, 2007
The Guardian

It takes nine songs - over half the set, encore included - for Isobel Campbell to shed her nerves and start having fun. Perhaps fun is the wrong thing to expect from this gig with saturnine collaborator Mark Lanegan. Their album, Ballad of the Broken Seas, is muted and ochre in mood and aching at heart. But that's no excuse for their demeanour performing the first eight songs. They stare over the tops of the audience's heads as they sing, never interacting, barely even glancing in the other's direction, the chasm between them oppressively wide. They're like a couple who have just had a relationship-crushing row; being trapped in a room with them is desperately uncomfortable.

How wonderful, then, when Campbell catches the giggles during the bar-room romp of Dusty Wreath, and sweetly fails to regain her composure. Suddenly the show comes alive. Lanegan remains as introverted as ever, but at least they share small, shy smiles.

The combination works best on songs like Ramblin' Man, him all striding masculinity, her softly pliant and shimmering in the background. A new song, The Flame That Burns, has a lovely, lively country feel, but suggests they are yet to come up with radical new ideas for where to take this partnership. Putting a little more laughter amid the doom might be a start.

From The Standard

January 24, 2007
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

By John Aizlewood

They made a curious couple. Him, a deep-voiced giant American singer, enveloped in an aura of darkness for whom the evening passed without a word between songs. Her, ethereally voiced, tiny Scotswoman, part secretary, part milkmaid, part Julie Christie, with not wholly unappealing pantomime dame boots. She played the tambourine, Stylophone, cello, guitar, keyboards and maracas and she giggled like a schoolgirl when Dusty Wreath went awry.

Yet, the musical marriage of former Belle and Sebastian leader Campbell and ex-Screaming Trees frontman lanegan worked a treat. Showcasing their mostly Campbel-written album Ballad of the Broken Seas for an audience so hushed and reverant it's a small miracle Campbell escaped without a proposal of marriage, they tickled the underbelly of Americana and gave it a Twin Peaks twist and a Glaswegian shake.

When the pair's so very different voices combined, most effectively on the percussive, brooding Dues Ibi Est, the sinister and romantic (Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me? and the funeral, Lee Marvin-esque The Circus is leaving Town, they were mesmerising and they added a crafty new layer of rueful irresponsibility to Hank Williams's Ramblin' Man.

After 70 spellbinding minutes, they were gone. hopefully, not for long...

From The Scotsman

January 21, 2007
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
ABC, Glasgow
by Fiona Shepherd

Isobel Campbell's Mercury music Prize nominated album Ballad of the Broken Seas was one of last year's most beguiling releases. Conceived by the former Bell & Sebastian singer/cellist Campbell as a collection of bittersweet duets, it featured gravelly vocals from mark Lanegan, playing the Lee hazelwood to her Nancy Sinatra.

This eagerly-anticipated gig placed the odd couple on stage together for the first time. In contrast with the many voluble musicians at the Celtic Connections, they made a taciturn pairing. Campbell has never been a comfortable performer and appeared reluctant, grimacing at her own hesitancy. The granite Lanegan, who had combed his hair subheadly for the onstage date, almost smiled a couple of occasions, but fought that urge.

Despite their lack of interaction, there was a natural vocal chemistry between the airy, pure Campbell and the brooding, sonorous Lanegan. he has spent most of his career singing in rock bands but his superb, atmospheric vocals here suggest that a long-term future as an elegantly flawed Tom Waits-style crooner awaits.

The album was replicated in near-perfect detail, with Campbell loosening up as the performance progressed. A cover of Nancy & lee standard Sand was appropriate, if obvious. In a way, both singers were outside of their comfort zones, so it was a blessing just to have them in the same room for this brief, precious time.

From Twisted Ear

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - Shepherds Bush Empire, London (UK), 23/01/07
Written by Beck Kingsnorth
Monday, 29 January 2007

The Odd Couple: Snow White and Satan perform together at last
Isobel Campbell: sweet, sunny, ethereal popstrel/cellist. Mark Lanegan: weathered, growly former repo man/heroin addict. It shouldn't work, really. It's an unholy alliance of gargantuan proportions and the pair are poles apart - ten years ago, she was 20 and had joined Belle and Sebastian the previous year; he was arrested and sent to prison (not for the first time) for drugs-related offences, in thrall to an addiction rapidly spiralling out of control.

That the two should ever meet - let alone record an album and, eventually, tour together - seemed unlikely, and in some respects it defies logic even now. As they shuffle onstage at the Shepherd's Bush Empire you'd be forgiven for thinking that they'd only just met; they stand a few feet apart but it feels like oceans, and they barely even look at each other at first. But then Lanegan never really looks at anyone anyway, his half-closed, sunken black eyes like chasms, staring into middle distance as the band plays the opening chords of Revolver. This is a strange spectacle; neither singer is particularly charismatic but onstage they are compelling - you can't really take your eyes off them, and you don't really know if you should be looking at all.

Campbell wrote most of the songs on Ballad of the Broken Seas - the pair's collaborative long-player - and last year, she toured it with former Vaselines singer Eugene Kelly. It was a partnership that worked well, but Kelly didn't have the onstage gravitas and, well, foreboding that Lanegan injects into the songs, and to see him join Campbell on tour almost a year after the record was released is quite something. As a live performer he has a strange air of reluctance and even at his own solo shows he rarely speaks, but he doesn't really have to; his world-weary baritone fills the room and he commands your attention like some grim and grisly villain you'd prefer to ignore but can't.

There are, clearly, a lot of Lanegan fans in attendance, and when he slowly, broodingly drawls the first line of Carry Home (from his roots and blues covers album I'll Take Care of You) there is a huge cheer. Campbell is, at this point, still adjusting to the venue and its sell-out crowd (the show was originally scheduled to be played at the Scala but was moved due to demand). She appears nervous, a timid, whispery counterpart to Lanegan's demonic scowl, but when the pair duet on their album's title track this is a glorious contrast. There might not be much in the way of stage banter, but this is music to stop you in your tracks - and when Campbell's cello solo comes in the middle of the song you just want to close your eyes and melt right into it.

And then Lanegan leaves. His exit is abrupt and without warning and you almost wonder, given his near-legendary dislike of touring and the notorious instability of his life frontman of Seattle should've-beens Screaming Trees in the 80s and 90s, whether or not he's just decided to call it quits. He hasn't, of course, and his exit gives Campbell the chance to loosen up a bit, taking centre stage for a 20-minute spell that includes the instrumental track It's Hard to Kill a Bad Thing and Dusty Wreath, during which she eventually breaks into a smile, finally flourishing in the limelight.

Lanegan returns as abruptly as he left, sidling onstage to shouts of "Lanegaaaaan!" to sing Brook Benton's I'll Take Care of You, another from his covers album of the same name. "That's my favourite one," Campbell says at the end, achieving the near-impossible by forcing a wry smile from her collaborator, who looks as if he might actually - whisper it - be enjoying himself. Perish the thought: then they duet beautifully on The Circus is Leaving Town before closing the set with Honey Child What Can I Do?, walking off to a braying crowd and shouts of "More!".

They encore with two songs - the swaggering, boozy bluster of Ramblin' Man and ragged-edged Wedding Dress, from Lanegan's 2004 album Bubblegum. They're about as uptempo as you get with these two and the encore closes the show on a high, even though the set feels short and the crowd is half-expecting another song or two after they've disappeared. It is a fitting end to a triumphant if taciturn show, and with new song The Flame That Burns having been aired, the audience is left with the tantalising suggestion that Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan just might embark on another project together. And if tonight is anything to go by, that really would be worth waiting for.