Friday, October 22, 2010

Live: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan 10/17/2010 at MHOW, Brooklyn, NY

For their first tour of the US together, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan took the stage at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg and effortlessly delivered their brand of gothic-laced, blues-infused Americana to a captivated and near-silent audience.

As the two singers took the stage and dived into "We Die And See Beauty Reign", from their latest LP Hawk, the lighting of the stage undoubtedly confirmed expectations of what the night had in store. Ms. Campbell (formerly of Belle & Sebastian) was brightly lit from above and cast in a soft white haze, perfectly matching her gentle, soft angelic voice. While Mr. Lanegan (who's credits include Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Gutter Twins, and Soulsavers), was less lit than some members of the backing band. His baritone vocals lurked and prowled in the dark.

The two bounced right into the driving "You Won't Let Me Down Again", then turned into the downbeat and soulful "Come Undone." Throughout the performance, Mr. Lanegan and Ms. Campbell continued to effortlessly flow and weave through variations, ranging from the dobro and guitar growl of "Snake Song", to the spaghetti western shuffle of "Who Built The Road", to the rollicking "Get Behind Me" near the close of the set.

Ms. Campbell, although seemingly a little nervous and initially shy, slowly gained more confidence as the night went on. Her direction throughout the set was subtle. Her whispered vocals, textured cello playing, and use of various percussive elements, all eased more than intrigued. A fine example that restraint can be a powerful attribute.

Although Ms. Campbell was literally in the spotlight on stage, let's face it- we are drawn to the dark. And the darkness suits Mr. Lanegan well. His voice was the dark foil to the illuminated Ms. Campbell. Whether he was belting it out over a dirty blues lick , serenading over sparse keys and strings, or hovering just above a slithering groove, he easily steered the night's themes to the darkside and underbelly. This was especially true for the back-to-back closing tunes of the night: the steamy dime store yarn of "Ramblin Man" and the pulsating heat of Lanegan's own "Wedding Dress".

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