BACK TO THE GRANITE
Mark Lanegan's stone-clad voice is the star of Soulsavers' Mojo Club turn,
reckons Chris Catchpole.
There comes a point during tonight's show where it becomes apparent that
Mark Lanegan hasn't moved all evening. Clinging to the mikestand and swathed
in purple light, he certainly looks the former Screaming Trees vocalist,
yet apart from occasionally closing his eyes every sinew of his body remains
static. Then again, who needs motor neurone function when that voice is
emanating from front-of-stage.
Sounding like it was hewn from granite sometime in the 1860s and left
to mature in a vat of malt whiskey, Lanegan is gifted with a larynx most
singers - contemporary or otherwise - would happily sell their toes to
possess. Indeed, the sheer force of character in his excess-worn growl
seems to have expunged the idea of Rich Machin's Soulsavers as a project
with a rotating cast of singers and led his newly assembled band to trade
- onstage at any rate - almost exclusively in the thick, narco-drenched
swamp rock that suits Lanegan so well. In fact, such is tonight's submission
to molten-lead blues and redemption-seeking gospel that it's hard to reconcile
Machin's past life as a purveyor of smoky, after-hours electronica.
It's a move with which the packed house at Islington's recently-rechristened
'Relentless' Garage have no qualms. Following some stirring support from
Steve Gullick's scuzzy four-piece Tenebrous Liar and Australia's Red Ghost
(aka Rosa Agostino, who lends some smoky vocal texture to Soulsavers'
latest album, Broken), Machin and Lanegan deliver selections culled on
the whole from Soulsavers' two most recent LPs. Ghosts of You and Me nails
the lotus-eating menace Alabama 3 continually strive for; Death Bells
ups the sleaze stakes and - prehaps best of all - a Cortez the Killer-style
reading of Gene Clark's Some Misunderstanding swathes anguished pleas
for forgiveness in expertly rafted feedback. Lanegan leaves the stage
for haunting penultimate track By My Side, and the reception that greets
his return suggests that Soulsavers are now as much 'his' band as '90s
grunge nabobs the Screaming Trees once were.
Frankly, if it results in more evenings like this, that's no bad thing.