Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Mark Lanegan Band @ Bowery Ballroom

Mark Lanegan Band @ Bowery Ballroom - February 7, 2012
Review: James M. Graham, Photo: Debbie Chou

Mark Lanegan and his band performed Tuesday night at Bowery Ballroom for the first show on the Blues Funeral tour, and easily his first solo show in NYC in at least ten years. The only other US date for the tour is Los Angeles, so the tickets for the Bowery show went fast.

Lanegan has been notorious for canceling shows and his unmoving hands-on-the-mic stage fright as a front man, but he seemed to get a second wind playing sideman to Queens of the Stone Age, The Soulsavers, Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli's The Twilight Singers and the Dulli/Lanegan project The Gutter Twins. His last solo release was 2004's Bubblegum, a masterpiece that has let fans wondering for seven years if he would ever record solo again and if his new release would live up to his last one.

When I first heard that the name of the record was going to be Blues Funeral, I was relieved and when I first heard it streaming on MOJO last week, I was ecstatic. The song cycle is much more languid and plodding and less frenetic than Bubblegum, but in typical Lanegan style, the songs set a mood - dark, sinister and elegiac - and once the listeners allow Lanegan to take them by the hand, the only way out is to wait for the end credits.

When the band took the stage on Tuesday, the lights were lowered to a barely visible (and unphotographable) candlelight orange, Lanegan and band dressed entirely in black to thunderous applause. Without any acknowledgment, they immediately launched into Bubblegum's "Can't Come Down" belting the opening line "Don't give a damn for money..." in his trademark baritone. Consider the mood locked and loaded.

Lanegan performed eight out of twelve songs from Blues Funeral for the first time ever without a glitch or a hitch. The band was extremely tight and effective, impressive since this was their first show ever. The rest of the set-list hit Bubblegum hard, with songs from Field Songs, I'll Take Care of You and the EP Here Comes That Weird Chill, which were basically B-sides.

Personal highlights included "Wedding Dress," "Creeping Coastline of Lights" (a Leaving Trains cover!!!) and "When Your Number isn't Up."

The band ended with a wonderful rendition of "One Way Street" and after the applause and screaming died down, Lanegan said, "Thank you very much, good night," which is as much as I've ever heard him say in the myriad other times I've seen him - except this time, and I swear to god - he smiled.

Unpredictably, Lanegan planted himself down at the merch table and greeted a long line of fans for pictures and autographs. He seemed genuinely elated. How could he not?


Check out some videos from the show in addition to the full setlist below...

Mark Lanegan - Bowery Ballroom 2/7/12
Can't Come Down
The Gravedigger’s Song
Bleeding Muddy Water
Sleep With Me
Hit the City
Wedding Dress
Resurrection Song
Harborview Hospital
Quiver Syndrome
One Hundred Days
Creeping Coastline of Lights
Riot in My House
Ode to Sad Disco
Wish You Well
St. Louis Elegy
Methamphetamine Blues
Tiny Grain of Truth

When Your Number Isn't Up
One Way Street

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