Live Review: Mark Lanegan - Ding Dong Lounge

9 July 2012 | 6:06 pm | Bonnie Neville

Mark Lanegan could well be the bastard child of Mr Waits and a demonic temptress.

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Imagine one bleary night that Tom Waits were to bed a writhing harlot, with sugared lips, a set of horns and flames licking her heels. Consider a face and a baritone so similar to Waits it's uncanny; then his embodiment of tortured brooding darkness so romantic – Mark Lanegan could well be the bastard child of Mr Waits and a demonic temptress. Think about that.

Mark Lanegan has distinction. A hailstorm of a voice wielded by few. His music is dense and alluring, allowing you to confront your chaos, shake hands with grief and explore lust. With a menu of sweet vices he sings of suicide, boozing, smack, whores and love gone bad. It's soul-scraping and bluesy rock born of the grunge era in Seattle. When his band The Screaming Trees parted ways, he released his first solo album The Winding Sheet in 1990. He has since worked with QOTSA, Soulsavers, The Gutter Twins and Isobel Campbell.

So here we gather at the freshly renovated Ding Dong Lounge for Mark Lanegan's intimate solo show. Fans are stirring. The smell of paint is prevalent. A little whisky falls upon my dress as the crowd push forward to secure a view. Lanegan takes to the stage, accompanied by his guitarist. His long, languid body positioned as always when performing – right hand on the mic, left on its stand. His face opens like a cave to deliver When Your Number Isn't Up. Red lights overhead stain our singer like a slick Hellboy. The song concludes, prompting a howl from delighted voyeurs. Lanegan follows tightly with songs from his fifth album Field Songs. One Way Street into No Easy Action, which then, true to the recording, is cut and folded in Miracle. When Lanegan sings, you feel it in every organ: “I need someone for my plaything/So lonesome in my playground/You baby go straight to my head.” Lanegan starts into Don't Forget Me and audible banter in the back is growled silent by die-hards.

We start to move out of the '90s. The Gravedigger's Song is the first we hear of Blues Funeral. During Grey Goes Black, the sound in the left monitor dies but the impact when the sound recovers earns applause. A voice hollers, “MARRY ME!” Lanegan smiles, “I've been married once. It didn't work out.” To get a reaction out of him is huge. But a smile is something I've never seen.

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The encore arrives and at Jesus Program, he's sweating and so are we. The stone man moves to wipe his wet face and thanks venue owner Billy Walsh for inviting him. Yes. Thanks, Billy.