Mark Lanegan at the Showbox, 11/19/98, from earpollution.com
review by Craig Young
It was indeed a rare pleasure to be able to see Mark Lanegan live. This was a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity, and the fact that he was being backed by some of Seattle's most notable musical luminaries (Mike Johnson, Mark Olsen, Ben Shepherd) only heightened my anticipation of the show. With The Showbox sold out, Pete Krebs opened the evening with a solo acoustic set. While his songs were both witty and catchy, his fast strumming and worn voice had difficulty filling the cavernous hall of The Showbox, and I spent most of his set wondering how Lanegan's music would fare in these climes. Mike Johnson followed. The dynamics of his sparse arrangements came across better than Krebs, but by this time the band room was packed with people who were more interested in being rude by talking loudly over his music; no respect for one of the most creative musicians in the city. However, Johnson did an admirable job of keeping focused on his set. As always, his slow-strummed tales of heartbroken loneliness, matched by his consummate musicianship, was something to savor for those of us paying attention.
By the time Johnson had finished, the crowd was tightly wound in anticipation of what was to come. When Mark Lanegan finally took the stage for his set they let out an ecstatic cheer. Lanegan opened up with "Ugly Sunday," from his first album The Winding Sheet, and any apprehension of how the band's sound would come across inside the large band room of The Showbox was quickly dispelled. The guitars of Johnson and Olsen were lifted upon Mark's deep, whiskey-soaked baritone, rising higher to color and wash away the quiet corners of the hall with their sound while the dark underpinnings of the tight rhythm section kept the band anchored and pushing ahead. Continuing on with "Pendulum," and "The River Rise," Lanegan's live sound revealed itself to be much more animated and textured than the quiet brooding of his albums. Interestingly enough, "Because Of This," the song he closed the show with and his most electric track off his latest release Scraps At Midnight, didn't come across nearly as well as the rest of the songs played that evening.
Drawing equally upon all three of his solo releases, the dynamics of the band rose and fell with the tides of Lanegan's forlorn tales of despair and loss. All of this made the show spell-binding and a rare treat that will be much savored for some time. Where Pete Krebs failed to come across, and where Mike Johnson was stopped by a disrespectful crowd, Lanegan showed his unique ability at wrapping the music he plays around the people (and places) he plays for. For being sold-out, it was one of the most intimate shows I'd been to in a long time, and looking around and seeing the rest of the crowd completely mesmerized by Lanegan's set, I knew I was not alone.