THE MARK LANEGAN BAND Live at the Rocca Malastestiana, Cesena, Italy 11th August 2015

Mark Lanegan - not a summery kind of guy.

Mark Lanegan – not a summery kind of guy.

On stage, Mark Lanegan looks and sounds every inch the rock and roll survivor.

This gives added authenticity to his songs about salvation and healing.

For Lanegan’s brand of bleak urban rock, black is the colour, as typified by tunes like The Gravedigger’s Song and Gray Goes Black.

Lanegan stands centre stage like a pugilist, not as someone who is picking a fight but as a man used to standing his ground.

Despite the fact that it is a balmy evening, for this open air concert he wears heavy jeans, a dark long-sleeved shirt and waistcoat. Stuffed in his back pocket is what could be mistaken for a comfort blanket which he uses periodically to wipe away the sweat.

Mostly he sings rooted to the spot, gripping the mike stand and giving no clues about his emotional condition.As a man of few words, you don’t expect much chat between songs but he does manage a couple of gruff ‘Thank You Very Muches’, introduces his excellent four-piece band and, near the end, becomes positively expansive as he says it’s a privilege to play at this venue.

The view from back stage at the Rocca Malatestiana.

The view from back stage at the Rocca Malatestiana.

His spoken voice is very raspy, as grizzled as you might expect from a lifetime of chain-smoking, whiskey drinking and general rock & rolling.

The band only play for around 90 minutes but end on a high with a brilliant three song encore. First there’s a faithful cover version of Joy Division’s Atmosphere. This has not yet been committed to disc which probably explains why so many punters hit record on their smart-phones to preserve the memory.

This was followed by I Am The Wolf and Methamphetamine Blues, both from his Phantom Radio album and played with more edge than on record. For the main set, a highlight for me was Dry Iced, one of the more electro-rock tracks which can be found on the deluxe edition of the same album.

Lanegan’s wintry blues on a midsummer’s night were a sobering reminder that the heart is a lonely hunter irrespective of the season.