7 October 2018
From cover-to-cover, Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood bring their two collaborative albums to Saint Luke’s tonight, highlighting the peaks and troughs of both records
Published in The Skinny
Bearing witness to a collaboration between artists with as much heft as former Queens of the Stone Age comrade Mark Lanegan and master of myriad instruments Duke Garwood is akin to watching a scale in equilibrium, teetering on occasion only because of its existence in an imperfect world.
Lyenn opens the night, setting the stage for the duo to reveal the eerie, tortured core of the midnight world. Accompanied by his guitar and an otherworldly ambience, he does a fine job of filling the rafters of Saint Luke’s. His intensity is only increased when a loud cry from the bar hinders his concentration. His scrunched eyes bolt open, revealing a cold and stabbing stare that scans like a hawk for the culprit. Amiss is a percussive backbone to enrich his sound beyond just a man and his guitar.
Performing a record in its entirety from cover-to-cover is a bold move; tackling two, even more so. Utmost confidence must be felt in the albums' at-home flow translating into a live setting – it is a vastly different experience after all. With this in mind, kudos should be given to Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood for the dedication employed in bringing every track from both of their albums of allegiance with them on their latest tour. The eve commences with Black Pudding’s twelve cuts, and after a casual fifteen-minute fag break they transition into another twelve cuts, in the form of 2018’s With Animals.
The intermission’s necessity is a testament to their utter submission to nicotine. It could be assumed that Lanegan exited the womb puffing on a pack of Luckies with those pipes of his (and Garwood for that matter, when he intermittently offers a grumbled word). Lanegan's lyrical subject matter seems almost irrelevant when compared to the might of his grizzled timbre; he could be singing about noshing a Tesco meal deal and those in attendance would still hang on his every syllable. The accompaniment of Garwood’s whispering, wandering, and weeping guitar gives the converted church a real sense of atmosphere.
Brooding blues permeates from early doors to closing note and final breath. Melodies sprawl with reverb and distortion down unexpected arteries. Drum machine rhythms and rattlesnake maracas enthral with a steady, shaking pulse. The star-crossed nature of Driver’s twinkling guitar and Lanegan’s growling jowl is beauty transcendent. With Animals' title track is the jewel of the night – hearing Lanegan’s dirtier-than-a-forever-rolling-tumbleweed voice deliver, ‘Girl, you are a seraphim’ is a spiritual occurrence.
However, the set gives credence to the notion that too much of a good thing can be a trial. Tracks begin to bleed into one another all too frequently. A tighter curation of cuts could have eliminated their albums' pitfalls and condensed the beguiling fusion of their collaborative efforts into a less testing experience. Lanegan’s lack of inter-tune chat also creates a barrier; with little hint of his psyche it is difficult to attach weight to his lyrics, to decipher his intended meanings and to delve deeper into his character.
For posterity’s sake let us pretend that no encore is given (an unnecessary reemergence is met with meek applause) as, for the set’s closing number Desert Song, the backing band make themselves scarce leaving only Lanegan and Garwood on stage amidst a lingering purple haze. Light snags on the contours of Lanegan’s dimples, his hair long and glasses thick, never has a full glimpse of his face been given tonight. When Garwood’s tenderly plucked strings reach their end, Lanegan departs the stage after his last impassioned word with head hung low and hand held high. A perfect moment of closure.