In a time when there’s a lot of pomp, circumstance, and bullshit, frankly, that comes along with a live show, it’s refreshing to see the MARK LANEGAN BAND play it straight. When showtime rolled around this past Sunday at the Paradise Rock Club, the former Screaming Tree and the members of his band filed quietly onto the stage, didn’t acknowledge the crowd before launching into a raucous version of “The Gravedigger’s Song,” the opening track from their latest record, Blues Funeral [Off The Record 01.31.12]
The song, which has the thumping bass, driving drums, and ringing guitar of a Lanegan-sung Queens of the Stone Age track, opens with the line “With piranha teeth/I’ve been dreaming of you/And the taste of your lips so sweet.” Sure, it’s a love song. Maybe that explains why there were so many couples at the show.
Dressed completely in black, Lanegan stood rooted at the front of the stage and barely moved. His pose is one of total control. Right hand on the microphone; left hand on the mic stand; left foot forward, likely planted on the mic stand’s base; right foot on the stage. The band, featuring Steven Janssens on guitar (he looks like he belongs in a rockabilly act), Jean-Philippe De Gheest on drums, Frederic Jacques on bass, and Aldo Struyf on keyboards and guitar, all wore black, too. Janssens is the only player who moved around, and that was mostly to switch guitars or raise the guitar neck during a loud bend.
But the movement was in the music. When Lanegan’s crew got to “Wedding Dress,” off 2004’s Bubblegum, the crowd, which had been totally into it, became completely adoring. True enough, there’s something irresistible about the lines, “Will you walk with me underground/And forgive all my sicknesses and my sorrows?”
Janssens had a couple extended solos during “Wedding Dress,” both of which were, to use a technical term, fucking ripping. This guy can play. De Gheest’s ghost note flourishes on “Gray Goes Black” were a thoughtful touch. Janssens had a couple more huge solos, in particular on “Riot in My House.” Also interesting: how often his guitar flourishes sound like something Daniel Lanois would produce.
Lanegan first spoke to the crowd after “Resurrection Song,” the sixth cut of the night. “Thanks so much,” he said. He didn’t speak more than 25 words to the audience, but why should he? His singing voice — raspy, dry and weary — sounds as if it could cut you with its jagged edges and his songs have the words to match. Stage banter is totally unnecessary (and probably demystifying).
Lanegan closed with a booming version of “Methamphetamine Blues” that got the biggest yelps of appreciation from the crowd. He took it all in and spoke the most words of the night, “Thanks for much coming. It’s appreciated. We’ll see you.”
The show’s only weak spot was the high level of trouble coming through the Paradise’s sound system. Anyone not wearing earplugs was probably hurting the next morning. But did anyone expect to feel great upon waking up?