There are a handful of adjectives which writers frequently fall back on when describing the work of Mark Lanegan; such noirish clichés as sombre, moody, dour and stern are often thrown about as if they’re going out of style. Whilst it is true that Lanegan’s work frequently focuses in on the darker aspects of the human condition (he isn’t affectionately known as Dark Mark for no good reason), to suggest such grim platitudes make up the entirety of his output is to do a great disservice to one of the most remarkable alternative singer-songwriters of the past few decades. If tonight’s performance at Brighton’s Concorde 2 serves to highlight any one specific aspect of Lanegan’s output, it would be the emotional range of his work. While the generous helping of tracks he performs from this year’s excellent ‘Gargoyle’ (reviewed here) are indeed heavily gothic – awash as they are with waves of chilling synthesizer and post-punk indebted bass lines – the show’s excellent, varied setlist allows Lanegan to demonstrate to anyone unaware just what a versatile songwriter he is.
The stunning ‘One Hundred Days’ comes midway through the set – it’s one of the most affecting, moving ballads Lanegan has ever penned and, coupled with a voice more powerfully world-worn than ever, provides ample chills down the spines of surely everyone lucky enough to be in attendance. 2001’s ‘One Way Street’ likewise demonstrates Lanegan’s uncanny knack for eliciting emotions in the listener that they didn’t even know they had, tonight’s performance is so subtly performed that it makes the already sleepy original sound propulsive by comparison. It’s not just poetic ballads and gothic rock soundscapes that Lanegan trades in however – as anyone with even passing familiarity with the distorted, dirty rock of his old band, Screaming Trees, will attest to. Tonight’s performance sees him juxtapose the solemn introspection of his quieter moments with raucous garage-rock and synth-lead stompers that don’t skive on distortion.
His recent work provides some standouts, too; the relatively upbeat rock of ‘Beehive’ is one of the best songs on ‘Gargoyle’ and likewise stands out as one of the more strident, immediate songs in tonight’s set. ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ from 2012’s great ‘Blues Funeral’ likewise excels, the song’s rollicking groove and vitriolic fuzz bass surging ever forward like some unstoppable mob. Throughout the show, Lanegan’s band prove themselves to be highly capable musicians; his guitarist in particular not only puts in some excellent, soulful guitar solos – greeted with fittingly enthusiastic whoops from the audience – but also provides sensitive, appropriately nuanced playing on the evening’s slower, more melancholic moments. Concorde 2 has some of the best acoustics of any Brighton venue and sound tonight is excellent, with a solid mix that appropriately accentuates Lanegan’s dry delivery and rasping, powerful vocals but not at the cost of the fidelity of the instruments that back him.
When Lanegan leaves the stage after an hour, it’s to well-deserved cries of encore – a plea that’s answered in the form of a three song finale focusing again on the slower, more contemplative of his works. It’s a powerful way to end the show and a great showcase for Lanegan’s still affecting vocal work. Leaving the stage for the final time after a 75 minute show, Mark Lanegan proves he still has the qualities that have made his work so respected for so many years. With a well balanced, eclectic setlist which proves just what able performers both he and his band are, tonight’s performance is a treat for acolytes and newcomers – if there are any in the audience tonight – alike.
Although it’s not until shortly before Lanegan takes the stage that the roomy Concorde 2 really fills up, his isn’t the only singular, remarkable voice on show tonight. Support comes from Joe Cardamone, formerly of now defunct LA experimental rockers The Icarus Line. Cardamone’s set displays far more confidence than most would in a non-headline slot – though that’s perhaps because he’s no stranger to live performance, his work going back some twenty years. Performing a set comprised of newly penned material presumably from an upcoming solo album, Cardamone’s performance is captivating and uncompromising, presenting an intense vision that nevertheless compels in no small way due to its sheer individualism and corrosive intensity. Backed not by musicians but by automated synths and drum machines, Cardamone cuts a striking presence on stage, bathed in sharp, stark light and performing to a back drop of extremely vivid experimental imagery.
From a purely visual perspective alone, Cardamone’s set is hugely engaging but musically, too, there’s much to applaud here. Sonically uncompromising, his solo sound is one that brings to mind a few different reference points; the stark intensity of the late ’70s No Wave scene comes to mind, as does the gothic drama of early Bauhaus and even Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, while the white-knuckle abrasion of experimental Rap is nodded at as Cardamone spits out the rapid-fire lyrics of ‘New Cross’. Pivotally, though, his approach is deeply unique; he synthesizes his musical references points in such a way that his work remains quite unlike anyone out there at the moment – that alone is praiseworthy. Throughout the set his delivery – both physically and sonically – is excellent and he cuts an imposing figure on stage. His set is a textural, sonically intriguing one and although musically it has little in common with Lanegan’s, both share an experimental, individualistic attitude that allows the two sets to sit together far more cohesively than may appear on paper.