Mark Lanegan - The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Mon 4 Nov 2013
The collaboration-friendly singer fuses gravelly, deep vocals with tremulous melodies and eerie lyrics
As surreal musical moments go, watching the characteristically morose Mark Lanegan perform a downbeat version of Sinatra’s ‘Mack The Knife’ is pretty high up there. His unmistakeable voice teases out the track’s darker traits in a noteworthy fashion, but thankfully he doesn’t go as far as breaking out the tap shoes.
Having produced a host of collaborations (with Kurt Cobain, Queens of the Stone Age and Isobel Campbell, for example, or with Greg Dulli as the duo, the Gutter Twins) alongside his gleaming original material, Lanegan’s career continues to gather strength and new direction. His latest collection, Imitations, is a covers retrospective of the work of some of his idols and contemporaries, and undoubtedly a career milestone.
In person he’s dishevelled but forcible; silhouetted under red-tinged light, he clings to the mic, projecting the first shivering notes of opener ‘When Your Number Isn’t Up’. The Queen’s Hall is then subsumed under Lanegan’s gravelly, deep vocal, fusing with tremulous melodies and eerie lyrics in an absurdly enjoyable combination.
The covers chosen suit the American’s repertoire: a second Sinatra song – the melancholic ‘Pretty Colours’ – proves especially poignant given the backing of lilting strings and a full band. There’s a brief homage to Lou Reed with ‘Satellite of Love’, a track that earns more points with the reverent crowd, followed by Andy Williams’ ‘Solitare’, which left dolorous notes hanging in the air.
The weighty set-time also allowed time for a scattered tour through Lanegan’s back catalogue, highlights being a cinematic and orchestral rendition of ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ and the searing ‘One Way Street’. Another collaboration – his Black Pudding release with dextrous multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood – is celebrated, with Garwood onstage here as support and a prominent member of Lanegan’s band. Haunting sax on the sombre ‘War Memorial’ mingles with solemn lyrics, and ‘Cold Molly’ add a spark of funk. Garwood also deserves serious mention for his spine-tingling guitar mastery in the final track.
Overall Lanegan can increasingly lay claim to a legendary pedigree, and his music, a perennial appeal.