25 years at the alt-rock coalface have left ex-Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan with one of the finest address books in modern music. A list of collaborators ranging from Kurt Cobain to P.J. Harvey, taking in Queens of the Stone Age, Isobel Campbell and the (much overlooked) Soulsavers, should be enough to fill Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms twice over with curious on lookers alone. A large portion of tonight’s crowd is made up of die hard fans.
Support takes the form of Belfast-based singer songwriter/ knob twiddler Joe Echo. Joe used to be in band called Leya, who enjoyed moderate success, but by all accounts don’t seem to have been very good. Since leaving Leya, Joe has met William Orbit, incorporated dance music into his field of influence, and bizarrely seems to think that he is best mates with Madonna.
Joe’s set sounds a little bit like Starsailor would if they thought that they could get away with beat boxing. 300 indie kids clap politely, shuffle their feet and look embarrassed. The set seems to stretch on for an eternity.
He finally leaves, and even the walls breathe a sigh of relief.
The lights go down, a ripple of excitement passes through the venue. Mark Lanegan shuffles onstage, accompanied by a lone guitarist, and proceeds to croon his way through a mesmerising 50 minutes of the darkest psyche-folk murder ballads you have ever heard.
The crowd, having battled through the bank holiday drizzle to be here, are best described as rabid, and each song ends with two minutes of rapturous applause, during which Mark shrugs, nods his appreciation curtly, and awkwardly awaits the opening bars of the next song.
Old classics are bent, broken and twisted to fit the band’s new two man format, and the audience are duly whisked down “the corridors of our psychedelic past”, as Lanegan grumbles and howls his way through the highlights of his solo career, before taking on a couple of Screaming Trees numbers, and finally finishing up on the primal stomp of Queens of the Stone Age classic Hanging Tree.
Mark does not smile once.