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Review: Mark Lanegan, Boiler Shop, Newcastle

Mark Lanegan
Mark Lanegan

With snow falling and Tyneside dates increasingly a fixture of his tours, you’d have forgiven Mark Lanegan’s following for giving this particular visit a miss.

Such is the brooding US singer’s popularity, however, that Thursday night’s show at the Boiler Shop was near-capacity, and that loyalty was rewarded with another sterling showing from this most dependable of performers.

Perhaps the chief reason for the 53-year-old’s enduring appeal is his ability to offer audiences something fresh with each new jaunt.

Indeed, whereas his previous visit was a magnificent, bare bones ‘Evening With…’ concert at The Sage Gateshead, tonight saw him arrive with the full Mark Lanegan Band in tow, with additional backing vocals provided by his partner, Shelley Brien.

If that wasn’t enough, there was also the prospect of hearing songs from his newest LP Gargoyle; a record which has been hailed in many circles as a career high – not bad for an artist who emerged from the Seattle underground some three decades ago.

His sound has long since morphed into a mixture of overcast blues and noir new wave, yet Lanegan is one of the last great grunge frontmen standing, and is perhaps alone among his contemporaries in having grown better and better in his advancing years.

He’s hardly a picture of perfect health, but his famous voice remains in fine fettle.

Weathered by a past of substance abuse and chain smoking, it’s a rich, grizzled baritone which simply oozes charisma, leaving little need for on-stage chatter or histrionics… which is fortunate, as he’s never been one to indulge in either.

Leaning intently against his mic stand, the singer and his four-piece instead focused solely on delivering a fabulous no-frills 80 minutes, and it was with a pair of new cuts that they truly hit their stride.

With its tumultuous synth underbed and pinch of jet-black humour, Nocturne is vintage Lanegan and already sounds like a live fixture for years to come, while Beehive’s driving guitars and anthemic streak made for one of the evening’s punchiest moments.

From there, one could pick out any number of highlights. Personally, I’m going to vouch for the sumptuous gothic ballad Bleeding Muddy Water, though that minimal masterclass was certainly run close by Death Trip To Tulsa, a memorable standout from his previous album, 2014’s Phantom Radio.

There were even echoes of last April’s Sage show when Lanegan and lead guitarist Jeff Fielder returned to the stage for a short stripped-back encore.

It’s a format which suits him and his voice immensely, and proved a perfect, understated note on which to format which to see his adorning crowd off into the cold wintry night.