LIVE REVIEW: Mark Lanegan Band, Riverside, Newcastle

MARK LANEGAN ... showed why he is known as Dark Mark with a masterfully gloomy gig at the Riverside.
MARK LANEGAN ... showed why he is known as Dark Mark with a masterfully gloomy gig at the Riverside.

THERE’S a reason why, at some stage in the past three decades, Mark Lanegan acquired the nickname “Dark Mark.”

As though it were needed, last night’s appearance at the Riverside gave vivid evidence as to its origins.

The Seattle singer proved himself a master of gloom who - in spite of that veteran status - is as vital now as he has been in his entire career.

Initially springing to prominence with grunge outfit Screaming Trees, the 50-year-old has since carved out an immense and varied catalogue spanning numerous bands and collaborations, together with a range of styles.

The one constant, of course, is his legendary voice; grizzled and weary from years of abuse; rich, yet bone-dry, much like his on-stage temperament.

Here, that irrepressible force was set to the backing of his own Mark Lanegan Band - usually a four-piece, but tonight shorn of a bassist through illness.

A formidable aural presence, those wizened vocal tones carried the outfit throughout, particularly during an opening where it stood naked save for a spate of low-key guitar licks.

At around 20 minutes, these stripped blues made for a bold, electrifying entrance, setting the stage perfectly before the remaining members emerged to crank proceedings up a notch.

And crank things up they did, kicking into gear with the brooding slow-burner Resurrection Song before extending the venue’s PA with the pummelling distortion of The Gravedigger’s Song.

Considering they were a man down, the quality and fullness of the group’s sound was quite remarkable as they manoeuvered through a set which leant towards last year’s Phantom Radio LP.

A typically solid outing, the record supplied many of the night’s highlights, from the imperious Floor Of The Ocean, to the thudding electro stomp of The Killing Season, which granted a masterful performance the knockout conclusion it so richly deserved.

If the headline act provided value for money, openers Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss supplemented it with their own somewhat lighter take on the blues.

Mixing a carefully coordinated clutch of covers with their own equally-reverent originals, the experienced Californians quickly won over the accumulating crowd with a half-hour packed with heart and personality.

The pair have become regular openers for Lanegan, and even quipped that audiences must be growing sick of them, but judging by tonight’s applause theirs is a charm and warmth that’ll always be welcome.