Mark Lanegan is one of the very few heroes of the Seattle grunge scene who is, luckily, still alive and kicking. It is really hard to put words together when writing about such a musician. You have to see his performance and experience the impact of his unbelievable voice yourself to understand what I am talking about. However, I’ll try to do my best to make you realize why you had to be there in case you haven’t.
The news about Lanegan’s European acoustic tour came about 2 months ago and since then it was impossible to shake off the tingling feeling brought on by the waiting and excitement. Helsinki was the dessert on the very last date of the tour – the 24th of May, 2010. When the day had come, we invaded the sold out Nosturi club to be a part of what I can absolutely consider to be one of the best shows I have ever seen.
Lanegan came out on stage and without any kind of foreplay, started the concert with “When Your Number isn’t Up,” and it was better than anything he could have possibly said instead. Lanegan truly doesn’t need any introductions. You should know that you won’t see much interaction with the public, any chit-chat between the songs, nor any smiles or flirting with girls in the front row. His attitude is made of steel – he will come out, sing his songs standing in the same spot with his eyes closed, and leave you wishing the show would never end.
For this tour, Lanegan featured some of the pearls from his discography as a solo artist, with at least half of the set coming from the “Field Songs” (2001) and “Bubblegum” (2004) albums. He also added compositions from his past and current side projects, such as SOULSAVERS, SCREAMING TREES, and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. The cherry on top of the cake was the cover of PINK FLOYD’s “Julia Dream.”
Somewhere between the songs, Lanegan introduced the only other musician on stage, Dave Rosser, who was accompanying him during this tour. He played guitar and did the backing vocals, adding more perfection to the show. This concert was one of the rare occasions when absolutely everything was right. Each song elicited loud cheers from the crowd; “Like Little Willie John” in particular received the warmest reception. I have to give it to the Finnish audience – for once they were extremely respectful and silently listened to the songs, probably being too overwhelmed.
Meanwhile the show was going on. It felt like Lanegan’s voice made the air more thick – it literally filled you from the inside and gave you chills. It’s an addictive feeling: when Lanegan doesn’t sing, the silence is insufferable. He didn’t come up on the stage for the public’s entertainment – he was there to make you realize that you’ll do anything to hear some more.
A lot of performers bring huge shows with them: they blow up pyros, they have amazing lights on enormous stages, etc. Then there are unique ones, like Mark Lanegan, who only needs one acoustic guitar and a voice so out of this world that it makes you wonder why you wasted your time watching everything else.
He didn’t say much at the end of the show either, yet he thanked the audience and told them they were wonderful. He never gives any empty promises to come back again, because you’ll be there if he does. The tour is officially over now and we are “thirsty with nowhere to go.”
1. When Your Number isn’t Up
2. One Way Street
3. No Easy Action
5. Shiloh Town
6. Like Little Willie John
7. Don’t Forget Me
8. Where the Twain Shall Meet (Screaming Trees)
9. Bell Black Ocean
10. Message to Mine
11. Can’t Catch The Train (Soulsavers)
13. Resurrection Song
14. Julia Dream (Pink Floyd cover)
15. River Rise
16. One Hundred Days
17. On Jesus Program
18. Traveler (Screaming Trees)
20. Wild Flowers
21. Hangin’ Tree (Queens of the Stone Age cover)
Written by Tanja Caciur
Photos by Chris Strother