Mark Lanegan @ Ding Dong Lounge
Returning to the Ding Dong Lounge tonight was like revisiting a childhood holiday home after an extensive renovation. While the original north-south orientation of the venue has been retained, the length of the room has been reduced to make way for a relaxing foyer area. It’s difficult to work out if the bar is located in the original position; ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. The acoustics are in a transitional phase, with the inter-band DJ set beset by frustrating audio engineering problems.
Mike Noga is on stage well after the advertised starting time of 8.30pm. Noga, ever the debonair fashionista, is wearing a slick white jacket that could have been procured from swinging London. Noga’s voice is edging closer to the East Village coffee shop folkies of yore. There are moments when you can hear the distinctive vocal style of Bob Dylan; Noga’s elegant and colourful lyrics are a quantum leap beyond the average earnest folk singer. The set ends with an acoustic cover of Down Like John Kennedy, originally recorded by Noga’s Gentlemen of Fortune. It’s already a great song, and it’s even better stripped back to its basic elements.
Mark Lanegan shuffles onto stage half an hour later, offering the barest of acknowledgement to the welcoming crowd. Lanegan has the weathered appearance of a man who’s spent his life battling demons. His eyebrows might be permanently furrowed; Lanegan’s face betrays the emotional dramas of a man forever remembering the last bad thing he’s done. Lanegan grips the microphone like a crippled man holding a crutch; occasionally, his eyes lift toward the audience and there’s a morsel of stage banter. The wit is dry, almost barren, and conversation occurs largely under sufferance. Like his psychological make-up, Lanegan’s vocal style is ravaged by years of addiction, his vocal chords are as rough as a country road, his delivery gruff as the resident old bastard in a festering public house. On Lanegan’s right is guitarist Jerry Fielder, as energetic and excited as Lanegan is proudly enigmatic. Fielder is the entertainer playing to the crowd; when Fielder is forced to borrow Noga’s guitar after a second string malfunction, Fielder chastises Noga for having an ‘upside down’ guitar – “That’s because I’m a drummer,” comes the reply.
The set is predominantly Lanegan solo material – One Way Street, One Hundred Days, Hit The City and Phantasmagoria Blues, The Gravedigger’s Song and St Louis Elegy from the excellent Blues Funeral album. The Screaming Trees tracks – Where The Twain Shall Meet, Traveller and Halo Of Ashes – elicit a passionate audience reception. There are a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure, including a cover of Pink Floyd’s Julia Dream. Eventually it all comes to an end, and Fielder declares the night over. Mark Lanegan is a true survivor, and a legend to boot.
BY PATRICK EMERY
HATED: The absence of Coopers on tap.
DRANK: Little Creatures and Mountain Goat.