Out of the three acoustic Mark Lanegan shows I attended, the show at Leeds was probably my favourite. Possibly due to the utter lack of expectation afforded by it being the first one I went to, maybe due it being the only one I could see the artists for the entire show (was at the back in Manchester, catching up with a friend not seen in ages. And everyone in Nottingham was taller than me), or it simply be that this was the best actual performance.
Whatever the reason, it was a nice surprise to find out that later dates had a CD available of the soundboard recording of this show, so I snapped up one for myself, another for immediate dispatch to a friend in the US, and a third for another friend. I could have parked them on ebay and made a small killing, but that wouldn’t be sporting.
Anyway, considering my own slightly nefarious past as a taper and trader back in the days when it was occasionally rather dangerous to do so (especially the Apollo in Manchester… get caught with a dictaphone there and risk having your fingers broken), it’s probably odd that I really have such little time for audience recordings nowadays. I suspect some sort of Monty Pythonesque “when I were a lad…” comedy snobbish reasoning regarding the ease of which recording and distribution can be done these days, but I think that it’s probably as I get older I am less inclined to get all excited about something that sounded as if it was recorded from within a woolly hat (presumably because it probably was).
So it’s nice that in this case, Live at Leeds (complete with hand-stamped cover reminiscent of the similarly-monickered Who album of legend) dispenses with all that nonsense and gives us a recording of the full show (well, almost – final encore song Where the Twain Shall Meet is conspicuous by its absence) that revolves around the performance rather than of the room as a whole. The live vibe is still there, but the purist-upsetting audience fadeouts between songs make it feel more like an album – indeed, it’s not really until the encores that the crowd encroach (in the nicest possible way) into the songs themselves, which makes this show ideal for this sort of thing.
Mark and David’s contributions are pitched perfectly in the mix, and while it has to be said that these shows (by their very nature) are certainly better served by actually being at them rather than experiencing them second-hand, this recording really does do each performer justice by showcasing tight and flawless performances from both. And because of this, it’s difficult to find any fault at all with this CD – other than the fact that it will probably end up being a lot more limited than its release deserves. I couldn’t recommend forking out the amounts currently being asked on various auction sites, but anyone unable to get to any shows where this is available who can find a copy for anything approaching the original asking price of £10 should snap one up – hopefully with more finding their way into the marketplace with each subsequent gig, prices will maybe start to drop.