LIVE YOU GOT IT: Mark Lanegan - Showbox, Seattle, 11/19

by Richy Boyer

(First appeared in The Rocket magazine, 12/2/98)

I'd been waiting more than eight years for this show. I mean, damn, Mark Lanegan. His solo LPs are some of the most emotional, moving and haunting albums to ever come out of the Northwest. And Lanegan's voice; it's enough to fuel a lifetime of teary-eyed daydreams and whiskey-soaked nightmares. So I was prepared for a pared-down evening of soulful acoustic laments. With the whole room glowing an eerie Tequila-sunrise red, everything softened and dreamlike from the smoke hovering over the crowd (who were smoking like fiends), Lanegan and his woeful crew hit the stage, smokes hanging from their lips as they broke into a chills-inducing "Ugly Sunday." And they lit up quick and fiery like a wooden match. The band was phenomenal; Mike Johnson (of course) on one guitar and Marc Olsen (who ruled) on another, newcomer Mark Boquist on traps and Ben Shepherd on bass. "Pendulum" and an amazing "The River Rise" followed, and people--teary eyes and all--were swept up into the rafters. The only problem was having to share these beautiful songs with a roomful of others. They make you want to sit in some lonely, dim-lit tavern on a drunken, rainy evening and be lulled by Lanegan's voice. And a few songs into the set, it happened; the walls closed in, all the people disappeared and it was just you and the band, sharing a moment of rare, emotional beauty. Then some asshole calls for "The Rock," and you're jolted back into the madness again, feeling surrounded and exposed. Appropriately, "Undertow" came rolling out next, followed by "Mockingbird," "Hospital Roll Call," "Borracho" and, finally, a breathtaking encore of "Because of This," leaving me feeling naked and exposed when the lights came up. Outside, under an ugly, raining sky, it was clear something magical had just happened, because for once, I didn't curse the beating rain and biting midnight winds. That night, walking home, I couldn't get enough of it.

© 1998 Richy Boyer