Growl Growl Growl – Live Review, Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli

“He looks like David Mitchell” says Mrs Loft and Lost.
“You go and tell him that” say I.
“Actually, he looks like the lovechild of David Mitchell and Stephen Fry”
“Are you trying to get us killed?”

Mrs Loft and Lost is right though. Greg Dulli doesn’t really look like the sex-and-drugs obsessed rock demon of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers fame. He really does look like he could be David Mitchell’s taller, stroppier older brother. Not that I would tell him to his face, as he’d likely take me into the concrete wilderness of the South Bank and give me a good shoeing. On our way into the Royal Festival Hall I asked the lovely lady on the door if we could bring drinks in, and she replied “Of course, as long as it’s in plastic”. Yes, because I’m actually feeling suicidal right now, and I’d like to end it all by chucking a wine glass at the two grumpiest men in rock – Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, otherwise known as The Gutter Twins. And playing acoustic, too.

I’ve seen Mark Lanegan live about six or seven times now, both with his band and with Queens Of The Stone Age, and I don’t recall him saying anything more than a couple of sentences each time1. Tonight, he managed a couple of jokey lines, but that was about the end of it, leaving his somewhat more forthcoming2 partner Mr Dulli to talk to the crowd, lead us in handclapping, introducing the (fantastic) guitarist (Dave Rosser, as both Martyn and Goonerandy have let me know – thanks chaps!), and exhorting us to “live life to the full”. Even sitting down, on a huge stage, with the usual huge amp stacks and drummer and the rest of the trappings of heavy rock replaced by a couple of acoustic guitars and a piano, he’s still a force of nature. On the third song in, whilst Greg and the guitarist are singing in harmony, a low, low growl comes through the speakers. I thought, “What the hell’s that?”. It took me a couple of seconds to realise it was Mark singing. He sounds like a particularly disgruntled tiger.

But by the sweet Mary mother of Jebus, does he have a voice. Quite frankly, it’s astonishing. He sounds like he’s spent an eternity sitting in run-down bars, drinking cheap whiskey and rueing the day he met that cheap no-good low-down woman and how she broke his heart. You can just as well picture him hunched over a glass of gutrot bourbon in a one-horse frontier town in 1874, as in a tavern by the docks in Plymouth in 1534, or drinking fermented woolly mammoth milk in an ostentatiously shabby cave about 5000 years BC, muttering something about how the dark days are going to come, and how that cheap no-good low-down woman has run off with Zog from the next cave along, and he’s going to have some of that there cactus juice tonight. There’s thousands of years of pain and heartache in that voice, and hearing him sing accompanied with just an acoustic guitar is a pleasure beyond mere words.

Don’t think that it’s just the tone of his voice that is special though. Mark’s actually got a better vocal range than you’d first expect; not just the bass growl that makes Barry White sound like he’s on helium. During “Sworn And Broken”, he actually sings, properly, and it’s a fair old treat. Ok, so he’s hardly Jeff Buckley, but the contrast with his usual rumblings makes the times he does venture above low C all the more effective. Oh, and thankfully the dreadful keyboard solo has gone (almost as bad as Sugar’s “Hoover Dam”), replaced with a marvellous guitar solo from Mr Rosser.

“Creeping Coastline Of Lights”, the sole track from Mark’s covers album “I’ll Take Care Of You”, was lovely, and was followed by “Resurrection Song”. In all honesty, the Lanegan material worked better acoustically than Dulli’s; partly because Dulli’s best songs have been balls-out, drink-sodden rage-filled soul-inflected numbers about doing all the wrong things in life (see “Teenage Wristband” or “Uptown Again”), so he had to fall back on either the quieter numbers, or try and make as loud a sound with two acoustics (or an acoustic and a piano). Some worked pretty well, like “Martin Eden” and the old Whigs number “If I Were Going”, but others don’t quite click as well as the Lanegan numbers do. But that’s harsh criticism, in fairness – there wasn’t a single moment that I got bored or wished a song was over. If anything, from the stage, they probably saw looked at me sitting in the front row wondering who that galoot was with the dumb grin on his face.

Setlist

Setlist

The last song before the encore was Bukka White’s “I Am In The Heavenly Way”. As both of them sang “Moving, joy, joy, joy\Wonderful joy, I’m movin’ on ”, we all thought “You know, you guys can stick about a bit longer if you want to”. So they did, and finished off with another cover, this time of Nick Drake’s “Three Hours”, with Dulli and Lanegan’s voices about as far from Drake’s fragile soprano as you can imagine. They sent us off into the South Bank night, happy as songs of misery, pain and addiction can make you.

Which, as it turns out, is pretty happy indeed.

(MP3’s courtesy of Mundo Eleven)

MP3: I Am In The Heavenly Way by The Gutter Twins (Live in Glasgow 2009)

MP3: Creeping Coastline Of Lights by The Gutter Twins (Live Glasgow 2009)

1 Andy, who’d originally told me about this show, said that when he first saw QOTSA live, he saw Mark shambling onto the stage and thought to himself “What the hell is that roadie doing?”. I can see exactly where he’s coming from there.

2 That’s not saying much. Lichen is more forthcoming.

Buy Mark Lanegan’s “I’ll Take Care of You” (Please, please do, it’s utterly fantastic)

Buy Gutter Twins “Saturnalia” (CD)

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6 Comments

  1. good review, nice one. dave rosser on guitar perhaps?

  2. goonerandy

     /  July 21, 2009

    Good review mate. It was indeed Dave Rosser on guitar. Nice to meet up for a beer awaterwards as well.

  3. loftandlost

     /  July 22, 2009

    Thanks gentlemen! I shall update the article with Dave Rosser’s name – he’s a fantastic guitarist.

    And always a pleasure to meet for a beer!

  4. Excellent review. Came across it while trying to find some mention of the show. Mark’s voice really was on top form…

    Wish I’d been around for the beer afterwards!

  5. Caitlin

     /  March 1, 2010

    Great review, Lanegan was on top form that night. I’m so annoyed with myself for missing this and the Glasgow show.Have seen Lanegan twice with Isobel and twice with Soulsavers and am so looking forward to the solo tour.

  1. None More….errrr…Flowery « Loft And Lost

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