It seemed like everyone was getting on it at the Croxton on Friday night for the Mark Lanegan show.
The Croxton Park Hotel, Melbourne, Friday July 22
By the time the band came out 20 minutes late, the Lanegan-aged crowd was sauced and ready to go. It’s always the same crushing sensation when a band comes in together on the first note, and the room’s sense of weighty anticipation was immediately subsumed by a collective realisation that the sound’s no good.
With bass so muddy your kids could play in it, unwanted sub-frequencies cast a murk over the rest of the band that left you actively tuning your ears to try and catch the guitar solos. In fact, other than the irrepressible bass, everything seemed too soft in the mix – most presciently, Lanegan’s trademark husk, which was buried somewhere inoffensive rather than hitting you in the gut. The potent combination of dodgy sound and a trashed Friday night crowd allowed for a loud murmur to emerge within a couple of tracks, which didn’t dissipate for the rest of the set.
Lanegan and the band didn’t exactly put on a show, either. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if Lanegan’s voice was towering across a room of disciples hanging on his every word, but with the band sounding that ugly, stoicism comes off more boring than it does effortlessly cool.
That said, those familiar with Lanegan’s records were clearly having an easier time hearing the great tunes in there than their dates. The cuts from Lanegan’s comparatively poppy 2012 record Blues Funeral came off the best – especiallyThe Gravedigger’s Song and Ode to Sad Disco – whose melodies have enough grit to rise out of the mud and get people swaying.
A Screaming Trees cover towards the end of the set finally pumped the crowd up, but it seemed to come a little too late. While the Lanegan diehards were able to revise the tracks in their head to sound just like they do on the record, the power of Lanegan’s tunes and voice were mostly lost. Better off buying a bottle of whiskey and dusting off your old Bubblegum LP.