Live Review, 5/23/12: Mark Lanegan Croons the Great American Into Sad Submission

Categories: Last Night
Lanegan Balcony.jpg
Bri De Libertis
Mark Lanegan at Great American Music Hall last night.

Mark Lanegan Band
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Great American Music Hall

Better than:
Staying at home and thinking about death.

Mark Lanegan plays in the dark. Literally. A blue light here, a red one there, and zero variables. All you can really make out is his pronounced frown, gigantic jawline, and the shiny Johnny Cash pompadour of his guitarist. It's only appropriate really -- the Mark Lanegan Band is the sound of brooding desolation, of loves lost and lonely roads and longing. The illuminating flashes of light in the set are few and far between, usually coming in the form of soaring country and blues-tinged guitar solos. Make no mistake, it is all very gorgeous -- but it's not necessarily great at holding one's attention for an entire show, especially in a room kept so dark.

Lanegan Band.jpg
Bri De Libertis

We should mention at this juncture that Lanegan's latest album is titled Blues Funeral (upbeat as ever!) and the album's lead single -- "The Gravedigger's Song," used to open the set tonight -- serves as a perfect tone-setter for the entire evening: You know, misery and torture and whatnot.

There are brief respites from the pain early on -- "Sleep With Me" is irresistibly sultry, "Hit the City" prompts the woman next to us to yell "Wow!" a lot, and by the time "Wedding Dress" is halfway through, the same fan is making actual sex noises. Loudly. The rest of the women in the room may not be as vocal as that lady, but truly, Lanegan's mysterious and ultra-masculine delivery could seduce a nun.

When Lanegan hits his optimum tone, it is heart-wrenching and engrossing, like on the devastating and haunting "One Hundred Days," and the whiskey-soaked wilderness of "One Way Street." But there are missteps too: "Ode To Sad Disco" plods along at best; mostly, it just feels like dragging heels.

Lanegan Solo.jpg
Bri De Libertis

The truly rockin' moments tonight are rare but valuable -- "Quiver Syndrome," mid-set, provides one of the few, with its faster pace and "Sympathy For The Devil"-esque ooh-oohs. And, later on, a super-heavy, somewhat industrial rendition of "Methamphetamine Blues" shakes the room. But even great moments like these don't drag us out of the drowsy funk the Lanegan Band spend most of the night dragging us into.

While Lanegan's distinctive baritone is a joy to behold in a live setting, it isn't enough to keep us completely enthralled all night. Ultimately, the unchanging pace of the set, the lack of interaction from the band, and -- oh yes, that perpetual darkness -- feel, by the time midnight rolls around, more like a shot of morphine than a shot of adrenaline.

Critic's Notebook

Actual Conversation With Fellow Gig Goer:
Her: "He's like a watered down Tom Waits..."
Me: "No he isn't! Tom Waits' voice is like dragging your face against gravel! I want Mark Lanegan to sing me to sleep!"
Her: "Yeah? Well, he sang me to sleep thirty minutes ago..."

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Location Info

Venue

Map

Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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3 comments
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Ramshackle Days
Ramshackle Days

Couldn't disagree more with the reviewer. 

This was an intense, no-frills rock & roll set by a really great band who made it all seem so effortless, and a singer who commands your attention with his voice and his presence.  

Loud, ferocious at times, always compelling, it was a set that contained musical references to almost every decade of rock & roll.

Not sure who concerns themselves with the minimal lighting when faced with this kind of power.  Maybe the shallow attention-deficit folks you see playing with their cell-phones at music shows need that sort of distraction, but for my money, Lanegan and band delivered.

Sonicyouthyumyum
Sonicyouthyumyum

the interviewer reads as if he/she just graduated from college and doesn't quite grasp or appreciate various music/genres etc - in short, he/she lacks experience - IMHO, Lanegan is one of the top 5 active blues singers in America today.  He is immensely talented - from Soul Savers "Revival" to breathing fire during "Song for the Dead" by QOTA.

He's all over the place musically - takes chances - and can put a room in a trance faster than the reviewer can jam out to the latest Kate Perry single.  

Respect for Lanegan - oh - and by the way, "Blues Funeral" is an incredible album - the vast majority of respected journalists/domestic and intl - rave about the album.

rhallett
rhallett

Hmmm, firm grasp of the obvious revue - Mark is always dark, not rocking to entertain folks...your revue is about right with One Hundred Days, Quiver Syndrome, and his voice...but the flippant tone (an error in much rock journalism) misses the contribution of the band, who flesh out the mix of heavy rock, electronica, and blues, combined with Mark's voice and lived lyrics..."drowsy funk" indeed...

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