Review: Mark Lanegan | Mandela Hall, Belfast

After the release of Gargoyle in April of this year, tonight sees Mark Lanegan return little over a year since his last appearance (although this time with full band in tow). Following well received sets from Joe Cardamone and Lanegan’s sometimes bandmate (and co-conspirator of the ‘Black Pudding’ release) Duke Garwood, as is tradition the distinguishable Lanegan and his band appear on stage with little fanfare and kickstart proceedings with Death’s Head Tattoo from the aforementioned most recent album.

Mark Lanegan - Mandela Hall, Belfast

The magnificently bass heavy ‘Gravedigger’s Song‘ follows before regular backup singer Shelley Brian (and Lanegan’s long-term other half) joins the band for a few numbers, starting with ‘Hit The City’ from 2004’s excellent Bubblegum. The ever expanding lineup adds Duke Garwood for ‘Sister‘ and a beautiful cover of The Twilight Singers’ ‘Deepest Shade’– the line ‘My love I give to you’ is followed by a lingering kiss between the couple before Brian departs.

Mark Lanegan - Mandela Hall, Belfast

Another new song ‘Emperor‘ has a real groove to it and picks the pace up once again, at this stage it’s obvious that the set is a much eclectic mixture of Lanegan’s past six releases (some fans might have issues with the lack of anything prior to this, but the reaction from the respectable sized crowd to each song suggests they’re more than happy). The singer’s interactions between songs are kept to a minimum, his spoken voice when it is briefly heard sounding like a man who has gargled whiskey and cigarettes.

Beehive‘ sounds exactly like its title, a buzzing intro and almost punk guitar sound is one of the undoubted highlights of a varied sight, before the tempo is once again taken down for the spellbinding ‘Bleeding Muddy Water’. More electro songs like ‘Harbourview Hospital’ and ‘Ode To Sad Disco’ are beefed up in the live setting, but sit just as easily in the set as the classic ‘One Hundred Days’.

Mark Lanegan - Mandela Hall, Belfast

One sole audience member’s shout of ‘Happy Birthday Mark’ is met with an inconspicuous nod of the head, the return of Shelley Brian and two beautiful offerings from Phantom Radio┬áin ‘Harvest Home‘ and ‘Floor Of The Ocean’. Mark Lanegan shows don’t really do low points, and the constant switch between styles sometimes means there is no natural flow to proceedings, but to nitpick at that is missing the point-as a musician he has an extensive back catalogue from which to choose, between solo work and that of his various side projects. To focus almost solely on his solo work is to be applauded, the audience (and myself) lap up every note he croons. The main set finishes with the stomping ‘Methamphetamine Blues’, before being treated to ‘One Way Street’ and ‘Bombed‘.

Mark Lanegan - Mandela Hall, Belfast

Lanegan hobbles offstage (he’s been clearly limping during the whole set) with a brief mumbled thank you, and that’s exactly what you’d expect. A true survivor, the owner of one of the most instantly recognisable voices in music, and a master of pretty much any music style he puts his hand to.