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Restrained Mark Lanegan keeps it cool

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mark lanegna

mark lanegna

mark lanegna

Mark Lanegan doesn't really do much, does he?

 Like Tom Waits with better hair, Lanegan - a critically-adored figure of swampy, late-night, American alt-rock - is all about the voice. And what a miraculous instrument that is, too; a stony, near-burnt rasp that never lets up. Never. Not even when he stops to say a word or two.

"Thanks very much", declares Lanegan, almost in slow-motion (the chap also walks this way - it's as if his batteries need replacing). That's pretty much all we're gonna get out of him tonight.

And then there's the presentation. A sharply-attired Mark Lanegan (50) just…stands there, the Washington-based singer resisting the urge to engage in a spot of showboating.

Hands at 12 and six on the microphone, Lanegan remains in a stationary position for 90 minutes, stopping only to remove his glasses (we got excited there for a second), sip water from a bottle and - get this - wipe his brow with a towel.

Okay, so we're being a little mean. It's just the whole keep-it-cool, nodding-dog manoeuvre gets boring after a while. You could take your eyes off of a Mark Lanegan gig for ten minutes, and you'd miss nothing.

When Mark's muscly guitarist informs us of a meet-and-greet afterwards, you pray the leading man won't disappoint an ardent fan base by sulking his way through autographs. Because he is a very popular chap for a so-called cult figure, you know (two nights at the Academy, one of 'em sold out - not bad at all).

PRECISION

Ever heard of Screaming Trees? Mad Season? The Gutter Twins? Lanegan's been in 'em all. Crikey, the chap used to make some noise in Queens of the Stone Age and hang out with Kurt Cobain before Nirvana exploded.

These days, he's on his ninth studio album (Phantom Radio). And so, 'The Mark Lanegan Band' (Mark's brother is on keys) swoop in and out of releases, showcasing exactly the kind of skill and precision you'd expect from a gang of rock 'n' rollers who don't appear all that interested in breaking a sweat. It's a restrained, occasionally sophisticated set-up, the lads juggling psychedelic, six-string boogie (the delectable Harvest Home and Gray Goes Black) with heavier, distorted offerings (the magnificent Hit the City).

Lanegan's mesmerising baritone keeps us clued in, even if the guy looks like he could do with an energy drink. Hey listen, if the National can do sugared-up hyperactivity with morose, funeral-home balladry, than the very least Mark Lanegan can offer us is a smile. Alas, it isn't to be.

A super-tight, near-exceptional display of musicianship, Mark Lanegan and his Band tick all the appropriate boxes: show up, play the songs and stick around for a 'chat' afterwards. Maybe we're just being greedy, wanting more, but Lanegan would be doing well to remember the importance of a personality when it comes to rock 'n' roll. Mysterious is one thing - faux grumpiness is another. "Well done," says the guitarist with the large biceps as Lanegan exists stage left. He's, er, talking to us. Thanks very much. HHHII


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