Sound Check: Entertainment Weekly

Mark Lanegan Band
El Rey Theater
December 17

by Jonathan Heit

In Seattle, "experience" has a deeper meaning than elsewhere. Perhaps it is the history in those Pacific Northwest old growth trees or the more obvious Hendrix connection, but Mark Lanegan's voice, hones in that same region with 90's greats Screaming Trees, not only carries the weight of experience, but is itself an experience.

Looking beautific under the stage lights, there is a heat and anger to Lanegan's work, like a breathing David Lynch film. The laid back demeanor of this new Mark Lanegan Band complements well his archetypical menacing growl.

Highlighted by Troy Van Leeuwen (APC) and drummer Norman Block, the band moves effortlessly from grassroots to rock. Perhaps because he plays no instrument himself, Lanegan seems to understand more fully the power of the pregnant pause, allowing his band to shine and underlining the mature emotion his vocals convey.

That jagged voice, evoking Tom Waits, is offset even further by the appearance of laconic guest keyboardist Greg Dulli, whose collaborations with Lanegan (the two are reportedly in the studio working on a Gutter Twins project) are becoming even more frequent.

The drama inherent in Lanegan's gutteral wail fuses seamlessly with his dire poetry, populated as it is with strung out desperados and lost love. Lanegan repeats themes of pain in crafty wordplay, as in the evocative "Methamphetamine Blues", from the current EP Here Comes That Weird Chill, wherein "Rolling just to keep on rolling/I don't want to leave this habit", habit is easily replaced with "heaven".

As the encore of a substantial set veers into overdrive, Dulli reappears, and the two duet on the Dulli-penned "Number Nine", off Blackberry Belle, showing Lanegan's interpretive skills to be as strong as his lyricism. Experience, indeed.