A Winged Victory For The Sullen – London Milton Court Concert Hall 19th October 2014

The last time I witnessed this collaboration of Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran play live, it was in Manchester’s Academy 3 – a wonderful gig venue, but wholly weird for the sort of music being performed.  So I guess it should feel somewhat more fitting for a performance such as theirs to take place in a more traditional classical concert space?  Well, yes.  And no, because their music sits happily between the two mediums so that where the former felt like a classical performance in a gig venue, this felt like a gig performed in a classical space.

This otherworldly ambience was helped along by making the atmosphere part of the performance thanks to a light dusting of smoke and a very creative use of lighting – indeed, lighting may well be the wrong word for it as most of the performance was partaken of in darkness, with two tiny fixed spotlights on the two composers and a variety of inventive methods of illuminating the central string quartet (including Stanley Kubrick on Viola, if we are to believe Mr Wiltzie, and I suspect that we shouldn’t) mostly from a position behind and underneath them, with banks of white lights twinkling away behind them, usually in underpowered hues of orange.


Mark Kozelek – Live At Biko

bikoThere is a reason why this post is ever so slightly late.  At the end of his performance of Micheline, Mark Kozelek takes a moment to gather his thoughts before asking his gathered audience “Are you tired of these middle-aged ramblings of mine?  ‘Cause I’m gonna go a lot more of them” before going into a short discussion of his recent viewing of True Detective.  And as I was only halfway through watching the set at the time, I immediately switched off and vowed not to return until I’d finished watching it for fear that he might say something spoilery.  My advice is – if you haven’t done so already – to watch True Detective from start to finish, as it’s incredible.  And once you’ve done that, put this on and nod along sagely with his short and highly accurate summarising.


Mark Lanegan – Meltdown Festival, London Queen Elizabeth Hall, June 14th 2014



“Bit short-changed there”, said the bloke passing us on the way out of the auditorium at half-past nine, after the set that began at half-past eight had finished. Well, away with you sir, that was great. To paraphrase an old BBC comedy play, never mind the width, feel the quality.

For such a short and early set (presumably with one eye on tonight’s footballing doings ) it wasn’t half packed, and came with a couple of surprises. Not only did the lightbulbs illuminating the stage actually change colour from their traditional red, Mark also took centre stage under a de facto spotlight!  Anyway, after a ticket-purchasing farce which saw us perched right at the back (as the following snaps barely illustrate – by the way, I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or wounded that I didn’t feature in the Guardian’s recent “worst gig photos”), we witnessed a rather stunning set as well as a lot of people who couldn’t stay sat down for five minutes at a time without wandering off outside.


Mark Lanegan Band – London HMV Forum, 04/12/2012

To be honest, I wasn’t going to bother doing anything on this show as I’ve done enough of these already this year! The plan was to chill out, hang out with friends who I’d not seen for a while (one of whom was celebrating her birthday) and just soak in the show without having to worry about thinking about it. There’s also the thing about writing about multiple versions of a similar show that requires finding something unique to wrap the whole shebang around that gives each show its character. The fact that I’m sitting here on a train tapping this out on a phone is probably as good an indication of how unique of character last night’s show was.
And that’s without taking into account watching the many people trying to make their way down steps that weren’t there by trying to walk through a metal barrier that was.


Mark Lanegan Band – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton 22/08/12


Weeks off work tend to be the busiest times, don’t they?  After an unexpectedly long walk home from being dumped in slightly the wrong county after Sunday’s Afghan Whigs show, I find myself off down the M6 to a city I’ve been through before but never actually to, in order to see Mark Lanegan and his band yet again, in the company of friends.  I should point out that I ran into a couple of these friends in London on Sunday, with only enough time for the briefest of pleasantries and a mutually unsurprised “see you on Wednesday” as if people from cities at either end of the country meeting somewhere in the middle on a weekday evening was completely normal behaviour.  I’m rather glad to say that, as far as myself and my friends are concerned, it kind of is.


The Afghan Whigs – London Koko, 19/08/2012

Just typing that subject header conjures feelings of “that really happened, didn’t it?” in this scribbler’s overheated mind. I still find it hard to believe that 2012 was the first time I got to see The Afghan Whigs in the flesh, after missing so many shows such a long time ago that it almost became a running gag in the ’90s.  As time has shown, although the Afghan Whigs were part of the same stable as much of what was so exciting back in the day, they were one step ahead of them all.  And I suppose this slightly out-of-phase attitude felt slightly odd when planning the gig-visits of the month.  Well, I’ve learned my lesson good and proper.
It wasn’t that long ago that I promised myself that the next time they breezed through anywhere near here, I’d be there. I’d didn’t expect it to be as soon as this. I certainly didn’t expect it to be this good. (more…)

Mark Lanegan Band – Leeds Metropolitan University S.U.

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…)


Mark Lanegan Band – Manchester Academy 2, 05/03/2012

How time flies when you’re having fun, eh? I’ve seen Mark Lanegan onstage in various guises in recent years whether it be with Soulsavers, Isobel Campbell, the Gutter Twins (as part of a band or just with partner-in-crime Greg Dulli) or just on his own with an acoustic guitar for company, in a host of buildings including a chapel, a cathedral and an Art-Deco seaside public artspace. Yet it’s been over seven years since he’s been through promoting his own new material under his own banner.

This is the first of four such new shows I’ll be taking in over the course of the next week or so, which seems like a bit of a muchness. And it probably is – the Thesaurus is certainly going to get something of a hammering/bashing/awful running gag treatment before next Tuesday’s behind me. Fact is, I’ll be pottering around the country meeting up with friends old and new who I met through a shared appreciation of Lanegan’s varied career, so as with previous multi-show visits, it’s an excuse to get out of the house and hang out with good friends, some of which I’ll be meeting for the first time in three dimensions. It’s rather strange that this first show I’m attending is in the same room as the last time he rolled into town with a full band under his own name back in 2004, perhaps it’s a fondness for the building (more than a couple of times in the intervening period, he’s been found in the cosier environs of the Academy 3 upstairs from here with other acts) as it can’t be due to a struggle to fill larger venues – Manchester has been very supportive of Lanegan’s varied works over the years, and his stock has certainly risen recently despite a mainstream press still unable to neatly place him.


A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Manchester Academy 3, 14/01/2012

And to think that I nearly didn’t go to this show.  For shame.

In fairness, I had a decent enough excuse in that I seem to have had a succession of bad colds from around just after Christmas that pretty much only completely cleared up last night.  I had my fellow gig-goers’ best health in mind with this, as well as worrying about how what I thought an ambient, neo-classical show would sound with me unblocking my sinuses in the background.  As it turned out, quietness was not something I needed to take into consideration.  And my minor ailments paled into insignificance anyway, when it transpired that the headliners’ viola player almost wasn’t let into the country, so if they were going to go the extra mile to make the effort to show up, it would have been rude for me to have stayed at home…


The Twilight Singers – Live in New York

A bit of a slight revisit this one, as thanks to the joys of preordering I’d been enjoying the downloaded tracks for a short while beforehand (and enjoying to the extent that I’d included this among my favourites of 2011). Thanks to the arrival of the 2xCD package that arrived yesterday as well as the arrival of a posh new pair of headphones (which comes with a free bottle-opener for reasons I’m not party to, nicely combining two of my favourite hobbies in one go nonetheless), I can ditch the digitals and pipe through something a bit more expansive.

Live albums are weird beasts at the best of times: even the most impressive and immersive recordings are just that – recordings. Strip away the physicality involved in actually being at a show, and it’s nigh-on impossible to replicate the experience, because almost all good and great shows are only partially about the performance itself. The portents were always going to be good for this particular one though – Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli knows exactly how to bring a performance to life, and his skills as bandleader, raconteur and general bon viveur are well suited to not just bridging the gap between stage and audience (every Twilight Singers show I’ve been to has felt like they’ve just turned up in your living room), but also concert hall to stereo. When Greg is facing his crowd, he’s doing this with the confidence of someone who knows exactly where he is (his local knowledge displayed at shows can be side-splittingly accurate) and what he’s doing; dipping in and out of a vast repertoire of cover version snippets and conversational asides safe in the knowledge that if he’s entertaining himself, then the rest of us will be having an absolute ball.

I’ll attempt to do something slightly different with this, as it’s certainly a slightly different release and as I’m pretty well-versed in the original recorded material (read here and here for a couple of examples) it feels a bit odd writing about them all over again, albeit in a different context. So, as context is king and all that, I’ll just knock up a list of what I think makes for any great live album based on a seemingly resolute criteria that has been passed down from generation to generation. Or, to put it another way, one that I seem to have arbitrarily knocked together for the sake of narrative.

Rule 1: The Cover Must Be Exciting

Rule 2: Bring Your Songs To Life

Rule 3: Involve Your Audience

Rule 4: Make The People At Home Sick With Jealousy

Rule 5: Leave Nothing Out