“What is she? Some kind of magician?” my wife inquired as Isobel Campbell shaked, rattled, and pounded several unique percussion tools during “Back Burner.” Indeed, she is. As the songwriter in her unlikely indie-folk collaboration with enigmatic Mark Lanegan, Campbell has masterfully orchestrated the musical backdrop to highlight perfect vocal constrasts. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan put their talents on display Friday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C.
From the subtle opener “We Die and See Beauty Reign” to the undeniably-Lanegan-blues closer “Wedding Dress,” I was transfixed by the complementary vocals, almost entirely ignoring the more-than-capable backing band. Lanegan took the lead for standout foot-tapper “You Won’t Let Me Down Again” and the duo put its third record Hawk on display on the sultry first single “Come Undone.” Lanegan mesmerized the crowd with “The Circus is Leaving Town” and Campbell captured the essence of Hope Sandoval‘s sound with “To Hell and Back Again.”
Opener Willy Mason displayed talent well beyond his 25 years during his mid-set duets with Campbell, but by the ethereal “Back Burner,” it was clear that Lanegan and Campbell have superior vocal chemistry. Lanegan may not have deviated much from his badass demeanor – a sort of permanent eyes-closed scowl as he channeled every emotion – but he garnered the most laughs from the half silent, half chatty crowd after a false start of “Come Undone.” Feedback plagued the track, prompting Campbell to halt and unsuccessfully attempt to communicate the problem to the soundboard. Lanegan’s description: “Robotic. Metallic. Beautiful.”
Lanegan otherwise was a man of few words and smiles whereas Campbell was chatty, politely asking for silence (“…but we’re happy!”) for each of Mason’s duets and cracking up during “Cool Water” about another band member’s “ding dong” joke from earlier in the day. The crowd didn’t mind. With three solid records and now memorable U.S. shows to their name, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan had earned it.
[Photo courtesy of Hartzine.]
Setlist after the jump.