Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood, Union Chapel, London, October 5, 2018

Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood have worked together before. On this tour, they’re playing the songs from the latest album, With Animals, released less than two months ago, and a previous collaboration from 2013, Black Pudding.

The first set of the evening consists of songs from Black Pudding. Two instrumental pieces bookend the first set of the evening. Duke Garwood appears on stage and plays Black Pudding, fluid and an expressive guitar solo that I frankly could easily have spent a whole evening meditating on in a dark room with my eyes closed. Eleven songs later, Garwood finishes the first set off with an equally evocative guitar solo, Manchester Special. Again, he takes the audience through a soundscape that seems to happen as naturally as a howling wind or roaring thunder.

Lanegan has a cold this evening and can be heard sniffing as if adding sound effects to the lyrics. He keeps blowing his nose in between the songs – that piece of cloth must be soaked in snot and mucus by the end of the evening. I imagine it is exhausting to do a concert with a cold, but he doesn’t show it. Instead, his cold adds an – unintended? – intensity to the songs, most of which are dark and many of which are morbid, as if he is not only singing the words but sniffing – crying – them out of his system, shedding snot, sweat and tears.

Despite his sniffy nose, Lanegan sings the songs with strength and clarity. It’s impressive how clear his diction is. Just because someone is a good singer doesn’t always mean you can hear all the words. But with Lanegan, you can. His beautiful baritone voice cuts through all the snot, and it’s certainly not evident in his singing that he has a cold. Later, I read that some people compare Lanegan’s voice to that of Tom Waits, and his voice has been described as ‘barbed-wire’ or ‘raspy’. I’m not sure I hear it. I’ve only heard him sing live one time, so maybe I need to spend some more time listening, but when I hear his voice, whether live or recorded, the words that come to mind for me are not ‘raspy’, ‘barbed-wire’ or ‘Tom Waits’, but rather words like ‘vulnerable’, ‘soulful’ and ‘pure’.

The second set of the evening is Lanegan and Garwood’s latest collaboration, With Animals. A collection of songs, themed primarily around death and loss, written and recorded over the summer and released in August – these songs are fresh out of the womb (or recording studio at least).

Garwood demonstrates what an accomplished musician he is, not only on guitar but also playing the clarinet and singing backing vocals. Two other musicians join Garwood and Lanegan; one of them is support act, Lyenn who provides additional guitars and synth beats that might work better than actual live drums for these sinister and very atmospheric songs.

As I’m new to both Garwood and Lanegan, I don’t know most of the songs in advance, but a few things I pick up on, are how both the new batch and older batch of songs are dark and tainted with sorrow. I hope and assume that Garwood and Lanegan also have good things in their lives but choose the darker moments for their musical and artistic output.

A song from the Black Pudding set is Death Rides a White Horse (‘If Death is a white horse, then I ain’t seen him yet’). It’s the type of song that is on double-duty for listeners amusing themselves trying to find meaning in the lyrics, seemingly referencing the bible and heroin in equal measures:

(From the Bible) ’When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a play horse. Its rider was named Death…’ And of course, one of the many nicknames for heroin is ‘White Horse’.

As for the songs from With Animals, I couldn’t possibly say what they’re about. Still, the vibe I get is like they’re songs sung by a dead boyfriend from the grave to his girlfriend who killed him. ‘You’re a murderer, girl, you’re a murderer, With animals all in my life, Free of all the suffering and strife…’, ‘Like a fog upon the sea, You can tell the ghost is me…’ and ‘Won’t you miss me, baby, When you’re alone and blue?, Remember how you kissed me, baby, Was a stone fool for you…’

Maybe, that’s not what the songs are about, but that’s what they left me thinking and feeling. Very upsetting and oddly beautiful.

Lanegan barely speaks, but when he says something (‘Thank you’), he says it loud and clear. Garwood speaks a bit more, but he mumbles so much that I don’t pick up a word he says. In a way, this is perfect. Because this is not a performance for anecdotes, this is about the songs. Whether this is the reason why they don’t speak much, or perhaps because of Lanegan’s cold, or just because they’re not those kinds of performers, doesn’t matter – it seems very fitting that they both hardly speak and just let the songs do the talking – and roaring and howling and sniffing.

Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood setlist
Set one (Black Pudding)
1. Black Pudding
2. Pentacostal
3. War Memorial
4. Mescalito
5. Sphinx
6. Last Rung
7. Driver
8. Death Rides a White Horse
9. Thank You
10. Cold Molly
11. Shade of the Sun
12. Manchester Special
Set two (With Animals)
13. Save Me
14. Feast to Famine
15. My Shadow Life
16. Upon Doing Something Wrong
17. LA Blue
18. Scarlett
19. Lonesome Infidel
20. With Animals
21. Ghost Stories
22. Spaceman
23. One Way Glass
24. Desert Song
25. I Am the Wolf (Mark Lanegan song)
26. Burning Seas (Duke Garwood song)

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