When Screaming Trees visited the UK on the ‘Dust’ tour in 1996, it was very much a cause for celebration. Having already pulled out of that year’s Reading Festival line up and now having another hugely successful album under their collective belt, it was no wonder that fans absolutely joyous at their long-overdue return. In addition, ‘Dust’ was arguably their finest work to date. With its heavy elements counterbalanced by huge swathes of dark psychedelia and prominent use of mellotron, it was almost as if their retro sound had come full circle and harked back to the 60s inspired parts of albums like ‘Invisible Lantern’, but it also had the benefit of much stronger song writing.
By the time the band reached London at the end of 1996, Mark Lanegan was in peak voice, and seemingly peak health. With future Queens of The Stone Age man Josh Homme having joined the touring line up on second guitar, the Trees attacked with a huge sound; part classic rock, part psychedelia, all wrapped in a touch of blues darkness. In the centre of the musical storm, Mark Lanegan stood rigid, throwing a deep croon across the audience’s heads in an almost detached way. That night, his aloof presence very much added to the atmosphere. That wouldn’t always be the case – on a solo tour of 2001, he presented himself as a man who really didn’t want to face an audience – but on this night, it was more than clear why he’d become so beloved by the era’s alternative set. The band were so great that no-one in the audience would have suspected we’d never see them again, but those who burn twice as brightly burn for half as long. Screaming Trees had taken over a decade to get here, and looking back, it’s easy to suggest that in many ways, that tour was Lanegan’s first true peak.
Future solo endeavours showed how versatile – and how classic – a writer he was with albums ranging from the dark and folky to almost deep and gothic. With singer songwriter Isobel Campbell, he even took on an almost Lee Hazelwood type role, something hugely removed from his rock past. With intricate and inventive guitarist Duke Garwood, Lanegan’s subtler side could soar, and as a part time collaborator with both Queens of The Stone Age and Soulsavers, his rock credentials and as his abilities to add moody sounds to electronic based soundscapes became equally important within his sprawling CV. In the tradition of Johnny Cash, Lanegan’s deeper tones almost transcended the man himself. Along with Chris Cornell, he was arguably his generation’s greatest talent.
Watch a full live show from Screaming Trees on their ‘Dust’ tour below. Filmed by a fan and rescued from an old VHS this truly is a little piece of history.
Mark Lanegan: 1964-2022