Mark Lanegan

This is the fourth Time Mark Lanegan appear on this place, making him the undisputed star of Live on 35mm.

I love his endless bunch of works but the reason is more linked to the fact that despite is unreachable persona he is far more easy to shoot than Nick Cave.. and PJ Harvey doesn’t tour as much. Nevermind.

It all started with him playing the “beast” role partnering with the “beauty” Isobel Campbell and her angelic voice. A mixed that works since the first fairy tale was written, some millenniums ago. Their third album, Hawk, is out right now.

It followed with the Gutter Twins which I was offered a photopass to discover they didn’t want photographers only when I got all the way from Cambridge to the Union Chapel in London. One of the peaks of my live music photographer career. Concert wasn’t that great either.

Then it appeared as a special guest with Soulsavers at their recent Electric Ballroom concert. There is when I wrote about his tendency of Lanegan-ize everybody’s else music and, as a counterpart, the entire Mark Lanegan Fan Club ranted against me a bit of everywhere on the blogosphere.
Nice publicity, they didn’t change my mind though.

So after few years of waiting I was quite happy to travel all the way to London for the second day in a row to get, again third time in four, to the Union Chapel to see the “lone wolf” howling in his favourite church.

Sold out, this was a solo tour. I hoped it was his band playing, I am still looking forward to seeing him with “the band”, but turned out to be the nowadays fashionable (and cheaper) “intimate” event. Just him and friend Dave Rosser on electric guitar.

I worried it was going to be boring, but that fear went away in about two songs. Because Mark Lanegan voice, live, within or without a church surrounding him is amazing. Period.

Nothing else change at his gigs.
He’s got one single pose, standing still, right hand on the pole, left hand on the mic. Fixed.
One single rare sentence. “Thank you very much!”.
One single low light, bloody red (in every sense of bloody) leaving him in the dark, so much he loves it so much photographers hate.
The same faces he pulls, twisting on the right, eyes shut.
(if you are shooting him go to the left side of the stage!)

All summed up, when he starts singing the depth of the voice make you forgive everything else.
It is an experience everyone loving baritones should do and in a “solo” setting the experience is more than ever all focused on his voice which the light arpeggios Rosser picks accompany.

A strange tour, marketing wise. Few dates. Even a bunch of Festival dates, not really the bloke you think to meet at a Festival, is he?
Then a long tour with Isobel Campbell will start in Europe to embark a very long North American leg in Autumn. She clearly wants to finally break through in the USA. She deserves it and he will help.

More exciting news. A week before this London gig, according to Wikipedia he appeared on stage in LA at the encore of a Queens of the Stone Age gig. Easy to verify these days, a quick search on YouTube shows him singing at least In The Fade and Hanging Tree. Shivers all done the spine.

Wiki also rumours about Lanegan joining back QOTSA on 2011 which would make me fly anywhere, from Alaska to New Zealand, to be at that show. But this news is more difficult to verify, unless you have his mobile number and could give him a call to let us know.

There was also a very home-made looking collector CD on sale. Recorded at another date of this tour in Australia. Signed by Mark himself, with not even a setlist on it, it was flying on the merchandising shelf for (quite expensive) 15£ a copy. You know what “cult” mean. These rock’n’roll days of third millennium have gzillions of bands playing and too few idols to venerate.

Mark Lanegan is indeed an idol. His fans would probably call him a God, which suites quite well with the place he chose to play.
I don’t believe in Gods and idols, but I can tell that when he sings songs as I’ll take Care of You, Halo of Ashes or the breathtaking acustic rendering of Traveller, memory of his past as a Screaming Tree, the concept of rock concert goes as close as possible to what a mystic experience is thought to be.

See if you can catch him somewhere, it’s worth. [myspace] or listen to [Spotify]

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Photo tip

I knew the combination of the Union Chapel and Mark Lanegan has several issues in term of concert photography.

One single pose. Don’t expect something is going to happen, all you can rely on is one of his faces looking slightly different or catching his eyes open in the very rare moment he looks outside the depth of his mind.

One single side. Union Chapel is an all seated venue with no pit and no room to move along the front of the first row. People there are justified to be pissed off with you hanging around (for three songs) that walking on their foot is not an option. So choose your side. In my case it was the left (right of the stage). Better.

One single red light. Basically a concert in full darkness. As the youtube videos I linked show, there was not enough light, not for photography. Considering Lanegan doesn’t move and on stage nothing was happening, this was the right time to go with a single 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens and take advantage of its solid anti shaking mechanism.

I shot this gig mainly at 1/30-1/100s f2.8 all the way, 6400 ISO and it was still delivering underexposed images.
I mostly sustain the concept that VR lenses don’t help at gigs because they cannot do anything for a moving performer, there is always the exception that confirms the rule. The immobile solo artist playing in the dark. Here we go, the lens proved useful.

Black and White I had no option. No one has yet explained to me why, but digital sensor can’t cope with red lights, so the only way to make this photos good enough, was to transform it to monochrome. Not my problem, the large majority of this site is on B&W. This is a news, though, because the B&W is digital. Hope you like it… and if you like it, you can Flattr this

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~ by Valerio on August 20, 2010.

9 Responses to “Mark Lanegan”

  1. Fabulous photos – you did well to get such good shots. It was, as you say, very dark in the chapel – thanks for such a wonderful reminder of Mark’s fantastic performance!

  2. Visto a maggio anch’io in queste vesti: il concerto più “asciutto” al quale io abbia mai assistito.
    Ma cmq è come dici tu: basta che inizi a cantare, e ci si perde senza possibilità di uscita.

    “Wiki also rumours about Lanegan joining back QOTSA on 2011 which would make me fly anywhere, from Alaska to New Zealand, to be at that show.”
    Se cosi fosse, ci incontreremo in capo al mondo, allora!

  3. Actually. Mark Lanegan has (at least temporarily) re-joined QotSa, as can be read here.

  4. Actually, Aglet, I know. I wrote and even posted 2 videos from that gig in the post :-)

    Yes country, even if I feel something is going to happen at Reading/Leeds. Let’s see if I was right next week.

    Thank you, Denise

  5. I think I’m almost alone but I never loved too much Mark’s singing.
    Great voice, obviously, great performer. But always the same mood. I prefer QOTSA with Josh singing.

  6. Gorgeous photographs

  7. Hi Valerio,
    I’ll be happy to know your opinion about my photos from the Isobel and Mark show –

  8. Hi Victor,
    there are some nice ones, this is my favourite

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