Lately I’m noticing memory issues regarding live shows. I’m talking serious. Some bands I reckoned never seen on stage I had actually seen them. I’m a bit worried, and find quite wise my decision to write down in my year organizers gigs I’m attending for the last 2-3 years. In fact I’m thinking of starting albums to gather and keep all gig tickets because I’m a mess.
I was 200% convinced I had never seen Mark Lanegan on stage, till yesterday, when a friend remarked his performance at a festival I attended in 2004. I saw the show for sure, and don’t think I was in super bad condition as in other occasions, but guess Lanegan’s show didn’t impress me that much because I can’t remember anything. I’ve read some comments on that show and seems it wasn’t a great one. It was also the year Ryan Adams dug his own grave (in Spain)offering a shitty performance too.
Let’s stick to the point. Yes, Blues Funeral, Lanegan’s last work irresistibly charmed me at the first listening as you already know, thus, when tour dates were announced including Barcelona, I didn’t put my attendance into question, as soon as tickets were available bought mine. Barcelona finally failed to sell out, but I didn’t want to take risks this time.
I met a friend by 8pm for the pre-show beers. Apolo surroundings were quite lively, with many people in good mood to see the Static Man. When we got in the venue, it wasn’t sold out, nor uncomfortably packed, yet quite full. Beer in hand, we went straight to one of the sides, half level over the guitar tech. I really love see these people in action, tuning guitars, choosing which one comes next, and exchanging them with musicians in no time.
9.15pm, Lanegan and the band turn up on stage, no hello nor good night, quickly as soon as everyone is set Gravedigger’s Song starts. It was like the starting ritual is cut down to nothing to go straight to the point. Believe me I was shocked.
Perhaps not only due to the lack of opening ritual, but also the low volume both instruments and voice set, made me feel uneasy in the beginning. It was ridiculous, as if they were playing in the room next door, or at same level as an accompaniment band at a restaurant, you could even understand conversations around.
First part of the set was marked by songs belonging to Bubblegum and Field Songs album, creating an intimate atmospheric atmosphere, or at least trying, because the volume issue was painful to endure. One Way Street and Resurrection Song played in the beginning were part of a risky choice, quite enjoyable though.
With Gray Goes Black, there was a turning point in all senses. On one hand, the sound of the band increased, not so much the singer’s unfortunately, the setlist revisited Blues Funeral properly, although unfortunately Bleeding Muddy Water wasn’t included, and the rhythm and vibe changed totally. Thus, an impressive Quiver Syndrome, Riot in My House, St. Louis Elegy were winning the audience.
The band wasn’t super remarkable, they accomplished their task correctly, but enjoyed the electronic and keyboard arrangements and the combination with drums in songs like Ode to Sad Disco. Their appearance was quite discreet, but the lead guitar, whose resemblance to the man in black, Johnny Cash, highlighted by his outfit, was stunning.
The 3-song encore was fantastic, with Pendulum, Harborview Hospital and Methamphetamine Blues, concluding a set close to 90 minutes, which of course, left the audience willing for more, however, absolutely nobody yelled demanding for more. Sense of respect perhaps? Weird and curious all the same.
I can’t say about Lanegan’s feelings towards the audience. He thanked sometimes, something apparently quite extraordinary, and exchanged some words hardly to understand, but seemed thankful. I didn’t notice any negative issues regarding his voice, but the opposite, and considering he’s one of the most static frontmen ever, someone said, in his gargoyle like pose, his performance and attitude were intense.
A really nice and meaningful gesture of Mark Lanegan right after the show, agreed and advised in advance, was to sign up merchandising and other stuff to fans. I was purchasing a couple of things when he arrived so I was the first one to say hello and congratulate him for the show, with a thanks and a smile in return, before I queued for having several items marked by his personal stamp. Yes, I exchanged words with him twice…hehehe! There’s a pic as a proof I’ll post as soon as I get it, I swear.
Thus, my real second Lanegan experience, leaving all the sound issues aside, was a positive one. It’s great to see a guy, quite in shape, having manage to overcome his addictions and personal Hell on Earth, with his attitude, charm and voice untouched.
Long Live Mark Lanegan! Hats Off!
(*) Deep Black Vanishing Train was left OUT