John Walker's Electronic House

Campbell & Lanegan – Cardiff Bay

by on Aug.02, 2007, under The Rest

Space aliens

I saw Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan in Cardiff last night. I strongly suspect Lanegan might have the best voice in the universe, pipping Nick Cave, Howe Gelb and M Ward at the post.

What he doesn’t have is stage presence. I’m not sure that I care all that much. He spoke not a word all night, barely nodding at the audience, and leaving with an embarrassed wave as he turned to walk off stage. He did, however, sing splendidly. Isobel Campbell was slightly more chatty, though no less bored looking, mostly talking to explain that she’d screwed something up, such as her stylophone solo. But this was as nothing to her giving up on a song halfway through after failing to hit half the notes. She has perhaps two years left before she smokes her voice away completely, which will be a sad loss.

Despite this, and perhaps testament to the quality of the songs, and especially Lanegan’s growling, bluesy voice, it was still an excellent gig. Almost destroying it completely at the start was the realisation that the strings were on tape, which seemed to cause everyone else on stage to play in a tired, mundane fashion. Once Campbell was on her cello, and the steel guitar was in force, things much improved, everyone seeming to wake up considerably.

By far the best thing was the strength of the new material. They’re recording a new album together, and the songs last night were a step forward from last year’s already excellent album. The new stuff has lost the last remnants of the Belle & Sebastian influences, and replaced them with a much deeper, instrumental maturity. Out with the fey, in with the growl.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Greg

    I agree. I saw them at the weekend at the Secret Garden Party – and his voice is amazing. She was far too quiet, and they seemed so bored by the whole affair. There wasn’t even an attempt at interaction with the audience, and when they finished their last song they just walked off without saying thanks or even bye. It was very odd. The music was beautiful, but it seemed like they really resented playing live.

  • Tim R

    There is definitely a breed of musicians who are in it strictly for the music, and who find audiences a necessary evil, there only to fund their quests for musical perfection. The classical pianist Sviatoslav Richter I think did performances of the Shostakovich preludes and fugues with no other lighting than a standard lamp placed next to the piano, thus rendering everything beyond the keyboard invisible and ignorable. There may be a place for this, but it probably works best if those with such an inclination are simply composers.