Mark Lanegan Band - Mean Fiddler

The Mean Fiddler (LA2) is not what you'd call an intimate venue, really. It's true that its not what you'd call an arena size venue either, but watching Mark Lanegan, you'd get the impression that what he'd like more than anything, is a truly intimate venue. That's intimate as, say, the corner of a bar in a Midwestern windswept town, where the local industry is chopping down wooden things with large steel objects and men are men and the local livestock would tell amazing stories if they could talk. He'd stomp into the bar, wearing lumberjack shirt, for once not worn for fashion sake, but for survival, and shake the snow from his boots. He'd order a large whisky and light a cigarette. The wind would howl outside, and the locals would fall silent as this tree trunk of a man would sip his whisky and tell tales of bravado and anguish. He might be accompanied on acoustic guitar.

But we have to make do with the Mean Fiddler, and a cold London night, which is not quite the same thing. Machine Head are playing next door, in the much larger Astoria, and a fair number of metal kids get turned away after queuing at the wrong door. It's a shame they weren't let in, as they might have had a pleasant surprise. Mark Lanegan is simply an amazing talent.

Screaming Trees fans, of course, will need no persuading of this fact, and it's a very good think indeed that his current stint with Queens Of The Stone Age means that a few more people will pick up on this. But tonight, the gig is not sold out, alas, but those who were there were treated to an hour or so of some of the finest music played live in any venue that night.

Starting with the magnificent Whisky For The Holy Ghost, Lanegan growled and husked his way through a number of his own, and other peoples, songs. Current EP, Here Comes That Weird Chill was amply covered, and the rendition of Message To Mine did indeed send shivers up the spine. The music, perhaps, did not sound quite as vital as on the EP and lacked the harmonies and subtle arrangements, but instead sounded a good deal less structured and loose. It still sounded bone crunchingly good, though.

Lanegan is not the most active of performers. He'll grip the mike like his life depended on it, and in may ways perhaps it does. He is simply a force of nature, a growling, mumbling force of nature that demands you listen to it with full attention. Tonight was simply a rehearsal, a treat for the faithful. His new album is due for release next year, and no doubt he will tour once more. It will, an all likelihood, be one of next years treats. Look forward to it.

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