I have spent all day checking my pocket. I have been doing this because all day it has had a ticket for tonight’s show in it and I have been paranoid all day about turning up at the door of the Student Union and producing either a ticket for a different city or – worse – that curious tribute to the surrealist Belgian artist René Magritte’s most famous work The Treachery of Images which is a favourite of all UK ticket vendors, the thing that looks exactly like the ticket I bought but with the words This Is Not A Ticket emblazoned upon its face. There is little hope for me in this regard.
Anyway, onto show number two. And after much messing about finding a car park that remained open after dusk near the venue followed by running into people in turn planned for, unexpected and hastily arranged (Jane, your ticket is here! Thanks to Denise, and sorry for saying to look for someone with longish hair and a dark coat milling about near the merch table as that didn’t really narrow it down at all…)
Creature With the Atom Brain’s set wasn’t far removed from Monday’s opener – fun, noisy and rather fearless because there’s not many opening acts with the confidence to squeak in a quick midset drum solo. As before, a couple from Transylvania plus a few from the new The Birds Fly Low album (which they were selling at the show tonight, came as a bit of a surprise on the drive home to hear Mark Lanegan once more chip in with vocals on one song as he has on the previous two). I hope to get a review of the album in during the next couple of days (it’s a bit mad!), looking forward also to seeing them again on Monday.
As with his 2004 tour when Mark similarly took a new backing band out with him, it was interesting to see shows in succession. A set was drawn up and rehearsed, then polished and amended/appended during the course of the tour to suit the mood of the performers on any given night and also to make room for songs that have come together during soundchecks etc. Tonight’s set found Manchester encore When Your Number Isn’t Up moved to the very top of the set, making for a creepy opening to the evening’s show before launching into a version of The Gravedigger’s Song which seemed slightly/relatively tamer for its slight relegation down the order.
After that, it was a mostly similar set from Monday (with Bleeding Muddy Water cut as far as I can recall) until the end, where a couple of major changes were thrown in. Phantasmagoria Blues was replaced by an incredible version of Leviathan – one of the few times where the backing vocals could be clearly heard above their instruments, it brings the band together beautifully, adding a tinge of psychedelic levity to the evening (which on occasion needed a bit of lightening up – a couple of tempers flaring around me towards the front of the stage), and then a couple of changes that warrant a bit of rambling…
Firstly, I mentioned in my spiel on the Manchester show that sort of technically (does the Screaming Trees’ Crawlspace count as an oldie when it’s only been in the shops less than a year? Ponder me that), the furthest back Mark delved into his back-catalogue was a visit to 1999’s I’ll Take Care Of You and I mentioned that there may have been a few cheerful rumblings (well yes, from me – although I’m not so disappointed that I’d spend a whole set shouting “Juarez!”. Anyway, he did Wild Flowers last year so anything else is a bonus) that earlier songs weren’t performed. And One Way Street tonight bowed graciously aside to let Pendulum have a turn in the spotlight. Here, I’d love to say how beautiful and mesmerizing it was (and it was, because it’s Pendulum – it’d have a hard time being anything else), but the venue’s once-more unsubtle sound and the band’s own delight in putting their own, creditable spin on things meant that this scribe was left hoping that the rough edges are more polished down a bit with repeated plays. I’m thrilled that I got to hear it (as were many present), and I look forward to further subsequent surprises.
Secondly, and far more importantly to these ears, Fix was replaced by Tiny Grain Of Truth. Again, this is purely one person’s own opinion at work, and I’m glad that I got to hear this incarnation of the Mark Lanegan Band perform their own (very Beggars Banquetesque) version of the old set-closer, but replacing this with Tiny Grain… and giving them their own space to play to their own strengths makes the whole set belong to this band, just as Fix belonged to the previous collective. It also makes for a hugely redemptive, ascendant and cathartic (listening to “What’s done is done” here is incredibly moving) ending, almost as if it was a natural flipside to the song it usurped.
Highlight again was Ode To Sad Disco, the venue’s sound pronouncing each drumbeat to make it sound even more like it was the proto-New Order in the Haçienda, delighting and baffling the crown in equal measure. The very pop nature of the song suggests that it may not necessarily have the longest shelf life compared with other songs in this canon, but while its here it’s so much bloody fun to listen to (and apparently perform, as the band tear into it with undisguised glee). Mark himself seemed to be in excellent spirits throughout – he still never leaves the comfort of his mic stand, but his body language is utterly relaxed – his eyes are open almost the whole time that he sings (and, in singing, his voice seems to flow a lot more than before: there are fewer grimaces), he sways when the band goes off on one of their many tangents, and he seems to be having an absolute whale of a time with his new songs and his new band. Only two more of these to go for me, they’ve been a joy so far and I can’t wait for the next/last brace!
When Your Number Isn’t Up
The Gravedigger’s Song
Sleep With Me
Hit The City
Gray Goes Black
St Louis Elegy
One Hundred Days
Creeping Coastline Of Lights
Riot In My House
Ode To Sad Disco
Wish You Well
Tiny Grain Of Truth