Mark Lanegan opens restored Neptune Theatre
Mark Lanegan, best known as the lead singer of the Seattle proto-grunge band Screaming Trees, opened the restored Neptune Theatre in Seattle's University District on Friday with an understated but moving performance.
Special to The Seattle Times
There was something apt about the fact that Mark Lanegan was the first act to play the restored University District Neptune Theatre on Friday.
Lanegan is a Seattle institution and one who, like the Neptune, is a bit of a restoration. And while he is rightfully much-loved in Seattle, some of the roaring applause when he came onstage must have been the joy the crowd felt at seeing an old movie palace come alive again with music.
Lanegan came to fame in the Screaming Trees in the late '80s, and his concert had a bit of the feel of a grunge-era high-school reunion, with famous faces scattered through the 875-seat hall. Though the Trees never found the platinum success of their cohorts, Lanegan's voice was always strong, and over a two-dozen-song set he displayed why he still commands respect.
This was an acoustic show, with only guitarist Jeff Fielder as an accompanist, and they started with "When Your Number Isn't Up." They followed with "One Way Street" and went on to sample tunes from Lanegan's solo career, with a few Trees gems thrown in.
Lanegan's baritone has elements of bass in it, which might be why many songs had growling, death-rattle choruses. The timbre of his voice is reminiscent of both Tom Waits and Johnny Cash, so it was no surprise that the most chilling song was "The Beast in Me," made famous by Cash.
Lanegan has always preferred dark themes, and even the Trees hits he sang were the somber "Halo of Ashes" and "Traveler." An unusual cover of Pink Floyd's "Julia Dream" was a highlight, but so was "Hangin' Tree" by Queens of the Stone Age, a band Lanegan has played with.
His only comments to the crowd were an introduction of the able Fielder and a joke about how warm the theater was.
"I don't remember it being this hot in here when I came to see 'Pulp Fiction,' " he quipped.
The temperature in the hall was one of few opening-night kinks, and it was particularly steamy in the all-ages balcony. Balcony ticket holders were also not allowed in the bar, a situation future attendees should be aware of.
But the sound is what matters the most at any concert, in any genre, and the new Neptune is a gem. With an understated, but moving performance, Lanegan was the perfect hometown hero to start the theater's chapter two.
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