Mark Lanegan quietly commands the crowd in Allston
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Mark Lanegan is gripping. That much isn’t news regarding the gravel-throated singer who’s able to tackle songs from any time period or genre and turn them into his own with ease. He walks up to a mic stand with a guitarist just a few steps away, puts one hand on the top and grips the bottom with the other and then steps confidently into his set.
There’s also a sense of unease to everything he does. While he sings, as he did in Boston’s Brighton Music Hall on Monday Night, he tenses and looks down between verses, either in total concentration or in an effort to block out the crowd. Whichever it is, the stark image of him standing so upright while delivering this otherworldly howl is one that forces the audience’s total attention.
He gently rolled through a good map through his catalog, hitting his most recent solo albums, moments with the Screaming Trees and covers that displayed his incredible range despite living so low on the register. As he patiently soars through “Where the Twain Shall Meet,” a Screaming Trees song dating to 1989, or “I Am the Wolf” from 2014’s Phantom Radio, he was putting his musical biography on display in the most intimate of presentations.
Lanegan’s choice in covers also demonstrated the heavy power of his voice. So many of the songs he’d chosen were lush orchestrations in their first lives, with strings and brass backing up the singer. Lanegan takes as much of that away as he can and lets his voice do most of the heavy lifting. When that throat turns into a low rumble bounding up to a bellowing roar and then back down with total control. The source material is obviously great, but his control takes it to a higher plane.
Helping that effort along was Jeff Fielder, who created entire soundscapes on acoustic and electric guitars and formed the bed for Lanegan’s vocals. Ringing atmospheres filled the room, and at every moment where it felt as if the playing could potentially go too far in volume or showmanship, Fielder would strip it right back to its bare bones. He was a sonic match for that gravelly baritone that had captivated us all.
There were still some signs of either discomfort of being on stage, or else they’re just ingrained habits — before the end of “On Jesus’ Program” but after the last words were sung, he quickly said “Thank you very much” before spinning around and walking right out the door behind the stage. And there was a quick exit again at the conclusion of “Halo of Ashes” at the end of the night.
He’s not a flamboyant showman in that sense, but he never has been. His draw comes from his voice, his commanding presence behind that towering microphone stand and the weight he gives each of the songs. There are no extra theatrics — he dresses in black from head to toe, he stands at the ready center stage and he delivers these songs in a way no one else can.
It’s his voice and his personality that keeps all these rooms so packed with all eyes dead focused on him. With that happening night after night, it’s probably no wonder why he feels those momentary urges to escape.
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org