Live in Leeds: Mark Lanegan, a quiet man whose music does the talking

Mark Lanegan
Mark Lanegan
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Mark Lanegan is not a man of many words.

During his show in Leeds, the singer spoke just twice to the audience.

The first time, after introducing his guitarist, keyboard player and drummer (the bassist was sick with appendicitis), a member of the crowd shouted back, “We love you Mark”.

The American lifted his hands as if to say, “aw shucks, you guys”, before launching into his next slab of blues-tinged redemption rock.

The second time was to say, “thank you and good night” after a 90-minute set demonstrating why this 50-year-old grunge survivor still fills venues after a career in the music industry spanning more than three decades.

A close friend of Kurt Cobain, a fellow native of North West America, Lanegan founded the Screaming Trees, a Seattle grunge band and contemporary of Nirvana, in 1985.

They tasted some success but avoided the mainstream commercialisation that ultimately did for Nirvana’s tragic singer Cobain.

Lanegan later joined Queens of the Stone Age and sang vocals on the Californian band’s best two albums, Rated R and Songs for the Deaf.

His solo efforts include the mighty Bubblegum, The Winding Sheet, Whisky for the Holy Ghost and last year’s Phantom Radio.

He has also produced several collaborations of note, most successfully with Isobel Campbell, whose floating and ethereal voice combined angelically against Lanegan’s rasping, deep and soulful growl.

Tonight though was Lanegan’s show as he delivered a powerful reminder of how and why his talent has endured - an extraordinary voice and an ability to fashion songs that capture a certain type of humanity and bear repeated listening.

Standouts were opener Night Porter, the ear-bleedingly heavy Gravedigger’s Song, the ridiculously uplifting Revival and garage rocker Hit the City, the 2004 collaboration with PJ Harvey.

Lanegan is a man with stage presence, who moves slowly, deliberately and only when necessary. Sure, he doesn’t speak much between songs; he lets his music do the talking.

* Mark Lanegan played at Leeds Beckett University Student Union on January 22.