2014 & 2015 Live Shows
My wife and I showed up at the Neptune just before 9:30 and unlike the Showbox earlier this year Mark had yet to take the stage and his set wasn't almost half over :) Both Lyenn and Sean & Zander had played though. I went to the merchandise stand and found they had a new live CD for Iceland which I picked up with no hesistation, so far so great :)
Hebden Bridge Trades
Club, UK 24 January, 2014
Even before I get onto anything
else, this was one of those occasions where a special round of applause
should be reserved for those least mentioned of a touring company,
the bus driver. How he got that thing there last night must have been
little short of miraculous. After my fun, if slightly concerned drive
there (I could be heard going “are you sure?” to my Satnav
more than once as I was sure was deliberately leading me astray down
roads where the provision of a single track would have been a blessed
luxury), it was a curious delight to enter the tiny arena of Hebden
Bridge’s Trades Club with the rest of a crowd of just shy of
200 people to catch a couple of highly memorable sets.
When you’re playing a show in what is essentially a pub with a small room in the back (especially when it has already hosted a matinée show from Jimi Goodwin, spotted having a great time here also), it’s probably not that much of a surprise when the audience isn’t quite as 100% rapt as they are at your usual Mark Lanegan Band show. Much gaiety could be heard at the back of the crowd (approximately 40 feet from the front of it) which did seem to annoy those closest, much loud shushing and a single, bellowed, “Shut up at the back or fuck off!” didn’t have any effect and ultimately it didn’t really matter. It also brings up the thing about how we enjoy ourselves at gigs nowadays – the Nirvana Diary illustrates perfectly how much we used to throw ourselves all over the place in the pursuit of a good time, and now (because let’s face it, the audience for those heady 1991-94 shows and the people who go to see Mark now are largely the same people, and that’s brilliant) we demand something a bit more sedate. Growing older’s bloody horrible, isn’t it?
Anyway, diversions aside, this is as good a Lanegan show as I’ve ever seen. A set split into 3 parts, and all of them captivating. First up was five songs with just Mark on stage with guitarist Jeff Fielder, and my heart was done the world of good by hearing Whiskey From the Holy Ghost’s Dead On You as part of this opening gambit – a beautiful rendition, and a highlight of any evening. After Low‘s full-blooded performance, most of the rest of the band took the stage. Bassist Frederic Lyenn has had to miss the last few shows due to illness (get well soon!), so much of the “main” set was performed as a four-piece, with Aldo Struyf stepping up from behind the keys for a superb Sleep With Me and Zander Schloss popping up for a few songs also. This gave the familiar songs (whether on record or previously witnessed on stage) a new dimension, particularly an Ode To Sad Disco that sounded even more of a floor-filler for having a more electronic leaning. Opening the full band section with No Bells On Sunday that lost none of its intensity in transition from record to stage followed by the ever-beautiful Resurrection Song, it’s a set that got progressively intense and louder as the night wore on. Deepest Shade was stunning. Torn Red Heart captured Joy Division’s Atmosphere just as perfectly here as it does on Phantom Radio. Death Trip To Tulsa closed the main set with emphatic aplomb, and after a brief pause we were off again with three wonderful encore songs: the Soulsavers’ Revival, I Am The Wolf that saw Duke back on the stage, and a strange and delightful Killing Season that shows that although there’s a remix album on the way soon (and available on this tour) he’s just as adept at reworking his own material as anyone else.
I went to this show with absolutely no intention of writing about it, as I’ve wittered on enough about Lanegan’s live shows and quite frankly, if nobody here knows now that they should really go and see him, then there’s no hope for any of us. This was an incredibly special show, not just because of the intimate surroundings (and a very Happy Birthday to Heavenly Recordings, who kindly laid this bash on) but it was one of those nights where everything clicked. I’ll be remembering this one for a very long time.
When Your Number Isn’t Up
No Bells On Sunday
Seventh gig of Mark tonight for me, the fourth with the full band. Strangely, for the first time I don’t run to the Alhambra. I like Phantom Radio, but it’s still too slow for me, a notch below Bubblegum and Blues Funeral. It’s not my fault if I’m more of a rock person, QOTSA fan turned Mark fan thereafter. As I loved the previous visit of Mark at the Alhambra (for the Imitations tour) though, I still think I would enjoy that gig tonight, but even if I didn’t know why, I was thinking it was going to be less enjoyable that, for example, the Rock en Seine 2012. I was totally wrong.
I arrived at the venue at the time of door opening, there was already a huge queue (the gig is sold out), but nonetheless, I reached without problems the second row in the “pit”. People seemed eager to go upstairs at the seating places. As usual, we got Lyenn and Duke Garwood as opening “bands”. Lyenn’s joke about him being our aperitif was a bit hackneyed for me, as he already said that in this same Alhambra in November 2013, but I enjoyed the set, even without the surprise of all the cries he lets out at the end. He was on the far left of the stage and me on the far right, so not ideally placed, but I still could see him more or less correctly. He made me laugh when he said that he was sorry to drain our morale, but that he will continue anyway :D
Duke was accompanied by a drummer this time, a discreet drummer for sure, but nevertheless, I thought it added deepness to the songs, and I liked him more that time (I saw him twice previously and also liked him, but obviously it’s still too calm for me to really be a fan). It was difficult to stay concentrated on the music though, even if most of the people were really polite and applauded copiously between every song, because nearly two hours and a half flowed by between the opening of the doors and the arrival of Mark on stage. A bit too much…
Finally, Jeff Fielder entered the stage, immediately followed by Mark, a bit of a shock for me, I was thinking he would arrive after the full band. The reason was simple: Jeff and him were alone for the first two tracks, When Your Number Isn’t Up (what an opening this song is!) and Low. The sound was really perfect, and will still be the same with the full band. Mark was limping badly and when he thanked us (between nearly every song!) his voice was more of a cawing, but when he was singing, was marvelous as usual. Even after the entry of Aldo, Frédéric and Jean-Philippe, the setlist still went on slowly, but Morning Glory Wine was so wonderful with Aldo’s keyboards (they sounded like an organ) that I didn’t care anyway. However, I was even more excited when The Gravedigger’s Song began. Curiously, Mark skipped the verse in French (shyness? ;-)). All my fears of before the gig were gone, the setlist was absolutely perfect, the new songs played were among my favorites on the album, and sounded even better live. And there was still enough Blues Funeral to please me. Mark seemed in a really good mood (well, you know that all is relative with him, but between all his “thank you very much” and the presentation of the band, during which he described Aldo as “one and unique”, I think I can say that).
I nearly cried during One Way Street, which is I think the first solo song of Mark I heard in my life. And yet, God knows they often play it. I must say again that the setlist was exceptional, really varied, even including Deepest Shade from Imitations. The closing of the first part of the show on Death Trip to Tulsa was gigantic (nothing to do with this review, but I immediately have a song in my head when writing this word, don’t you?). The electronic part of the song is beautiful.During the encore, Mark said to us “It means a lot”, hand on the heart. I was really touched by that. Duke went to play the last three songs of the night with the rest of the band. As always, Methamphetamine Blues was really appreciated by the crowd, but I was also very impressed by I Am The Wolf. On CD, I was just “well, OK, it’s cool” but live, the text really comes into its own. “I am the wolf without a pack, banished so long ago”. They could have ended the gig on that one, it is so representative of Mark. But The Killing Season was good too. I clearly lack of words to say how awesome this gig was, even in French. Jeff took a photo of us like last time (I hope I can find it this time, but I don’t think I can really be seen on that one, I’m too small ;-)), and then, he said Mark would be at the merch.
So I was obviously there too! I didn’t buy the poster with the wolf and the whale that was eyeing me up (35€ for a poster, I can’t afford that, as I have something like thirty favorite bands!) but I bought a beanie and gave my ticket to Mark for a signing. I said to him how beautiful the gig was and that I will see him at Rock en Seine, but I don’t think he heard me, people were talking a lot and I have such a small voice, especially when I’m intimidated (and I was, even if it was my third time meeting Mark).
It was such a wonderful night, I’m ashamed that
I had doubts about the setlist before the show. Thank you so much
Mark, Jeff, Aldo, Frédéric, Jean-Philippe, Duke and
Paul for this *** gig (fill the blank with any extremely positive
word you feel is appropriate) and see you at Rock en Seine guys!
This is the second time today that I’m gonna see the Mark Lanegan Band at Rock en Seine, in the beautiful Parc de Saint-Cloud. Last time, in 2012, the band was playing by night, but today, they are programmed at 7:50 PM. Not ideal in my opinion… At least they have a slot of one hour, it could have been 45 minutes… It is still strange that a singer with such a career ends on one of the littlest stages, but it allows the concert to be more intimate, so I will not complain too much about that.
As usual, the musicians (who don’t need to be presented anymore, see my review of the Alhambra in Paris in March, it was the same except for Duke Garwood who is here only when he has the opening slot) are doing the (long) soundcheck themselves. As it is very hot today in Paris, I don’t even have the courage to watch it in its entirety, preferring to be sit before the beginning of the gig (I’m here since the opening of the gates at 2 PM). But I heard Aldo doing the little bit of Death Trip to Tulsa, and these little seconds were enough to please me. Even if it was still daylight, Mark’s roadie asked for a change in the lights “No way ! No way ! Not in his eyes”, that was funny.
I was at the first row, right in front of Mark’s mic, when the guys entered the stage at the agreed time (that’s the advantage of festivals). Mark was wearing his Sunday best (well, it was Sunday after all), sporting a nice white shirt. The sound was not perfect, the instruments were covering Mark a little, but nothing horrible. As the gig was filmed (you can go to the Culturebox site to watch it), I was saying to myself that despite of the tiredness of the week-end (three intense days of gigs!), I had to look as enthusiastic as possible. No problem about that, the gig wasn’t lacking of rock with pieces such as The Gravedigger’s Song, Gray Goes Black, Hit the City or Riot in my House. A setlist pretty similar (except it was obviously shorter) than the one of the Alhambra, Blues Funeral / Phantom Radio oriented. I didn’t mind, it is still the same tour and most of these songs are so awesome! The “surprise” (well, not really one in this Internet era, as it was already played before) came with the Joy Division cover of Atmosphere, which was welcomed warmly by a connoisseur public.
There was another surprise, though, and it was one concerning the songs that were NOT played : I was pretty certain we were going to have Methamphetamine Blues, but no, no “Rollin’ children, keep on rollin’”, that was a little bummer, but Death Trip to Tulsa is so amazing for closing the set that I got over it ;-)
Comparing to the last Rock en Seine, I must say that Mark was (keeping everything in proportion) more talkative. The talk in question was mostly consisting of “thank you very much”, but when you have just one hour to play, I think that’s enough. If Mark didn’t even take the time to introduce his musicians, I was really touched to see him do a sign of the head towards every one of them: it was saying way more than words in my opinion.
Mark didn’t seem to be offended by the fact of playing by daylight, and if that’s definitely not my favorite configuration, I thought it was not as a nuisance as I expected it would be (it was my first time in eight gigs seeing Mark at the light of day).
As I have no interest in the bands that were considered headliners on that Sunday evening (Alt-J and the Chemical Brothers), Mark was the last artist of the week-end for me and my personal headliner of the day, so I was a bit sad when he left the stage (as always, by the way) but Jeff Fielder came to take a photo of us, and a really nice security guard gave me a setlist, that comforted me.
I was waiting for MLB to be the best gig of the week-end for me, and even without big surprises they didn’t disappoint (well, they were not as fun as The Offspring, but we can’t really compare, can we ? :D). However, a singer during this week-end surpassed Mark for me, and we all know how difficult it is, so kudos to Mr Paul Banks of Interpol. Mark, you need to come back to Paris soon to defend your title ;-)