The Mark Lanegan Band.
(photo credit: PR)
I first began to truly understand Mark Lanegan’s gift several years ago when our Jerusalem garage band’s bass player Matt brought in a song to try out by Lanegan’s former band, The Screaming Trees.
“Winter Song” was darkly brooding and intense, and just about perfect.
Ignited by Lanegan’s aching baritone, it reached emotional highs and lows.
Of course, we didn’t come anywhere near the heights that the 1990s Seattle grunge veterans soared to, but Lanegan’s voice remained branded in my memory from then on. And thankfully, there has been ample opportunity to hear those gravel and rock Nick Cave-meets-Tom-Waits pipes. The 50-year-old iconoclast has enjoyed a dizzyingly diverse solo career since the Trees’ 2000 demise.
Whether collaborating with the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli in their side projects, The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins, his beauty and the beast partnership with ex-Belle & Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell or his wailing as a ground floor member of alt-hard rock heroes Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan has continued to take listeners into a netherworld of shadowy cobwebs and reflection.
“On record we have an unspoken and inexplicable chemistry. I think we have a magical blend. That doesn’t happen with just anyone,” Campbell told The Jerusalem Post before appearing in Israel in 2010, adding that she was shocked by how much pain there was in Lanegan’s voice the first time she heard it.
As a solo artist, Lanegan has also remained prolific, releasing a half dozen albums and regularly touring with The Mark Lanegan Band. And luckily for Israeli fans, one of his strong pockets is Tel Aviv, where he’s established a loyal relationship with the out-of-the-mainstream audience.
Having appeared here in recent years with the Gutter Twins, Campbell and on his own, Lanegan is returning on March 23 at the Barby Club, fronting The Mark Lanegan Band at the tail end of a two-month European tour in support of his latest album, last year’s Phantom Radio.
When he spoke to The Jerusalem Post before his 2012 show at the Barby, Lanegan explained that having his name on the marquee – as opposed to being part of a collaboration – doesn’t really affect his level of commitment to his art.
“It’s all just music really,” he said.
“I’ve been to Israel just playing with me and an acoustic guitar player, which is as naked as you can get, and as part of The Twilight Singers with Greg, which was a sixor seven-piece band. Whatever it is, I’m just singing and enjoying the music. I don’t really care about the setting. I don’t feel any pressure – I’m just there to sing songs. It’s not that complicated.”
Indeed, as chronicled by the review of Lanegan’s show last week in London in the Financial Times, his performance is all about the music. Appearing onstage accompanied only by an acoustic guitarist, “Lanegan stood motionless at the microphone stand, gripping it with both hands, delivering "When Your Number Isn't Up," a morbid lullaby from his best solo album, 2004's Bubblegum… When Lanegan moved, he did so stiffly, with a limp, like an aging gunslinger in a western." Joined by the rest of his band, the show expanded to include “ferocious squalls of noise,” “hardboiled fuzz-rock,” Depeche Modestyle electronic beats and synths and U2-like soaring guitars.
Another review lauded his “oldschool” laconic, unsmiling and dark rock musician archetype who wasn’t afraid not to say “Thank you” and “Hello .... [fill in the city]” after songs.
Lanegan’s fans know what to expect, though – raw and real music – and the Barby will likely be filled once again when a true American music original returns to his Mediterranean haven. “Winter Song” may not make an appearance, but that’s why garage bands still exist.