This week, Belfast welcomed renowned songwriter and frontman Mark Lanegan and the Mark Lanegan Band to the Mandela Hall at Queen’s University. Touring in support of his latest studio effort, Gargoyle, the singer (famous for his roles in The Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and many other musical projects) and his band visited venues across Ireland and the UK performing a set complimenting his solo back catalogue. He hosted special guests Joe Cardamone’s Holy War and Duke Garwood which made for a very eclectic billing. Steven met all the artists in the photo pit, here’s what he had to say.
With a massive white screen spanning the width of the Mandela Hall stage, the event was introduced by a screening of Joe Cardamone‘s ‘Out of Road’ from his Holy War collection. Embracing shocking imagery of daeomic taboo, rebellion and twisted erotic sensationalism, Joe mixed with deep distorted bass lines and stabbing snares in tune with Massive Attack, Nitzer Ebb and Ultra-era Depeche Mode. Joe, as a filmmaker and musician, let his violent creativity ouse out to the crowd with a montage of his impressive imagery and artistic statements projected upon him. Appearing on stage for his set continued his visual-aural assault with a stage presence and vocals fusing Lou Reed with Alec Empire. An incredible contrast to what proceeded him stylistically, but laid the foundation for what became a trending looming darkness that embraced all artists that evening.
Upon Joe completing his performance, Duke Garwood immediately took to the stage bathed in strong red light – positioning himself where the light makes for deep moody contrast complimenting his dark sounds. Duke embraced strong southern desert Americana stylings, gentle to the ear but ominous to the tone and sparse in structure creating trembling haunting sonic landscapes with plucking paced rhythms that swang like a deathly pendulum. Duke completed a selection of recordings with Mark Lanegan in 2013 titled ‘Black Pudding‘ – creating the bridge between the two performers this evening. Continuing that trend of eclecticism accentuated this evening – Dukes set, despairing and unforgiving in character, laid the way to our headliner.
The strands of light faded further into the black with the Mark Lanegan Band entering the stage prior to the renowned frontman’s appearance to the synth-driven sounds of ‘Death’s Head Tattoo‘. Shrouded in darkness, a heightened sense of elusiveness created a compelling atmosphere complimenting the sullen sounds of the opening track of his headline set. Following this entrance, Mark took us back to 2012’s ‘Blues Funeral‘ with ‘The Gravediggers Song’ with its pulsating percussion, tremelo-drenched lead-lines, and wet distorted nuances. The frontman, stationary in sermon-esque expression, projected his deep vocals and sinister themes to the audience who were lured in further and further as the set progressed. “Hit the City” welcomed his partner and accompanying singer Shelley Brien for a more lo-fi anthemic rock feel from his earlier studio efforts of 2004’s ‘Bubblegum‘.
I will note as a photographer and to the benefit of those experiencing the remaining tour dates through a lens – although the atmosphere is intentional, it was a challenge to photograph the frontman during the performance and whilst the band was in their stride. I recommend an f1.4/f1.8 lens and keep the ISO relatively lower to get the most out of the contrast between the red and blacks. Obviously, this is venue dependent.
Although an artist in his own right, to those experiencing Mark Lanegan for the first time, you could equate his artistry and musical direction to the likes of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Tom Waits and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The lingering darkness matched sustaining pedal tones of vocals, swinging percussion matched with electronic experimentalism was prevalent amidst the grunge roots in the more upbeat sections of his performance – collectively filling the large underground venue astoundingly. The guitarist accompanying his aural journey on some tracks was able to let loose, demonstrating prowess in his piercing blues-inspired soloing.
From this performance, the highlights included ‘Death’s Head Tattoo‘, the swinging ‘Emporer‘, ‘Beehive‘ (reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine) and my personal favourite ‘Methamphetamine Blues‘ which evoked more a dirty industrial palette, catchy lyrical hooks (“rollin’ just to keep on rollin'”) and the hanging acapella. Ending with the short and abrupt ‘Bombed‘, the Mark Lanegan Band exited the stage, for Mark (with his silver-tipped cane) and Shelley to arrive in the foyer to sign merch. As a first time experiencer of Mark’s live efforts – this was an excellent performance from a legendary frontman, despairing and powerful, littered with dark imagery evocative in its live demonstration.
View the full gallery by Steven Donnelly on our official flickr by clicking the picture below!
Photos and words by Steven Donnelly