Mark Lanegan works within the moment at the Sinclair
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
A fan in the front was getting antsy. It was towards the end of the evening, and there had already been a rebuffing from our featured artist at the front of the stage.
So as Mark Lanegan stepped up for an encore performance of “Bombed,” a focused meditation from 2004’s Bubblegum, he put his foot down:
“We’re trying to work up here,” he said. And he put one finger to his lips and let out a long, purposeful “shhhhhhhh,” as he prepared to get back to that task.
And that’s what it is. He’s a working musician in every facet. He’s good for at least one album a year between his solo work, his full band albums and any number of collaborations. After shows, he sits at the merchandise table and meets fans. From there, he’s onto the next city, but not before he’s fully made his mark on the current attendees. On stage, he cranks out one punishing number after another.
Pulling from a good chunk of his Mark Lanegan Band work since 2004, it’s a significant mark to leave. Recent songs like “The Killing Season” and “Death’s Head Tattoo” set that trademark guttural stampede to an almost electronic swing, which all serves to frame his voice in a unique light. His newest single, “Stitch It Up,” from his forthcoming album this fall, takes that same electro swing and dials it up to a rave. Even “Methamphetamine Blues” had more of a declarative pulse, deferring from its typically wired arrangement for a bluesier stomp that plays up the menace even more than usual.
And he wasn’t interested in playing up anything beyond the living present. When that same fan who was overly enthusiastic, to put it as kindly as possible, called out for Screaming Trees’ “Nearly Lost You,” he quickly turned and knocked down that notion.
“Oh no. No no no no no. You’re about 20 years late for that one. You’ve got the wrong band.”
Instead the crowd got “One Hundred Days,” a song that should be regarded as a classic in its own right and one of the deepest songs in the man’s catalog. It wasn’t an MTV hit and it didn’t ride the wave that picked up so much of the Seattle scene, but it’s as vital and powerful as anything he’s written. It should be a song that the crowd is clamoring for, and the rest of the audience was obviously thrilled to hear it.
If this is an exercise in pulling out the highlights from multiple highlights, the key moment may have come during “Bleeding Muddy Water,” from his pinnacle 2012 record Blues Funeral. With the tempo slowed to a hypnotizing crawl, Lanegan let loose with all his raspy baritone has to offer while the band laid the groundwork. When he was through with its soulful wails, there was a cathartic ovation from the crowd. It hits that deep place that only the great artists can reach.
Simply, it’s a powerful piece of music, and it encapsulated his entire ethos at the moment. When it fills the room, it’s not hard to hear echoes Howlin’ Wolf bringing down a roadhouse, or Bob Dylan filling a theatre on any given night, anywhere around the globe. He continues to write and record these songs because he has to, and not just because this is a job. It’s the next step in the tradition of the blues, even if the music itself draws more from the spirit than the sound.
This is a man at work. Pay attention to which band is on stage and what the night should be about. Let him work, and everyone benefits.
Email Nick Tavares at email@example.com