Mark Lanegan Band at the Cedar, 5/18/12
Mark Lanegan Band
The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
May 18, 2012
Mark Lanegan is no less menacing on stage, even after all these years. The grunge stalwart and survivor returned to the Cedar Cultural Center a year and a half after gracing that same stage with Isobel Campbell, this time in support of his excellent new record Blues Funeral. Lanegan brought a cracking four-piece backing band with him as part of this brief, 12-city U.S. tour, and the talented group gave both his new songs and his classics some added bite and breadth, all while Lanegan's smoky, weathered vocals took us on a tour of the darker edges of town during his captivating 85-minute set.
After the band quickly and unassumingly took to the darkened stage, they kicked things off with the ominous first single from Blues Funeral, "The Gravedigger's Song," which, while being as gloomy as the title suggests, certainly got the set started with a shot. A succession of older songs from Lanegan's prodigious back catalog came next, as the electric and intense Bubblegum numbers "Hit The City" and "Wedding Dress" were followed by a rousing Field Songs double-shot of "One Way Street" and "Resurrection Song."
Anyone who has seen Mark Lanegan perform live knows of his intimidating stage presence, as he stands stock still with his hands gripping the microphone as if clinging on for dear life. Pleasantries are never exchanged, instead you just get his gravelly tales of despair and addiction sung to you like a ghost story around a campfire. During this generous, 20-song performance, it appeared as if some of the forlorn lyrics were physically painful for Lanegan to sing, as he visibly winced after some lines, which only gave more weight and impact to the already heavy material.
Lanegan's new material sounded fantastic on this night, as the adventurous electronic elements found in the new songs were tempered somewhat, and replaced by the dual-guitar punch of his backing band. "Gray Goes Black," "Phantasmagoria Blues," and "Quiver Syndrome" all had an urgency and tension to them that resonated loud and clear in the small club. After a somber rendition of "One Hundred Days," Lanegan spoke to the crowd for the first time, thanking us and taking a moment to introduce his band. And, after someone from the audience thanked Lanegan for coming back to Minneapolis, a hint of a smile came to Mark's lips for the briefest of moments, but that was enough to know he was happy to be back.
A rousing cover of Leaving Trains' "Creeping Coastline Of Lights" ignited the second half of the set, as did a fiery run through of one of the final recordings of the Screaming Trees, "Black Rose Way." But the main set ended with a stellar quartet of Blues Funeral songs, as potent versions of "Riot In My House," "Ode To Sad Disco," "St. Louis Elegy," and "Tiny Grain Of Truth" all bristled with intensity and somber elegance.
After a brief encore break, the band returned for a riveting but decidedly downcast version of "When Your Number Isn't Up," followed by a glorious rendition of "Pendulum," sadly the groups only foray into the Lanegan classic, Whiskey For The Holy Ghost during the performance. A jubilant, soaring version of "Harborview Hospital" really caught fire, with its piercing guitar melody slightly echoing U2. A gritty rendition of "Methamphetamine Blues" closed out the night in a raucous, gripping manner, leaving all of us to carry the weight of Mark Lanegan's absorbing songs now that he's unburdened himself, at least for one evening.
Personal Bias: Ever since I saw the Screaming Trees open for Alice In Chains at First Ave. in 1992, I haven't missed Lanegan any time he comes through town.
The Crowd: With a lot of other live music options happening on a busy night in Minneapolis, the show didn't sell out, but the smart ones were at the Cedar.
Overheard In The Crowd: Mainly just stunned silence.
Random Notebook Dump: I want Mark Lanegan to perform on my birthday every year.
The Gravedigger's Song
Sleep With Me
Hit The City
One Way Street
Gray Goes Black
One Hundred Days
Creeping Coastline Of Lights (Leaving Trains Cover)
Black Rose Way
Riot In My House
Ode To Sad Disco
St. Louis Elegy
Tiny Grain Of Truth
When Your Number Isn't Up (Encore)
Harborview Hospital (Encore)
Methamphetamine Blues (Encore)
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