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.
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.