October 15th was the date. The Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC was the venue. I had been waiting four years for this concert. Since 2006 and the release of Ballad of the Broken Seas (their first album together) I have waited, impatiently at times, to see them together in concert. I have seen Lanegan in concert seven times in a variety of settings and styles. From stripped down acoustic shows with Greg Dulli, to production heavy shows with the Soulsavers, to hard rocking shows with the Gutter Twins. However, I still had not seen him with Isobel. I had seen reports and videos of their concerts throughout Europe over the years, and always thought that they would come over here. It didn’t happen with Ballad of the Broken Seas, and it didn’t happen with their 2008 follow-up Sunday at Devil Dirt.
I began to lose hope. I began to hear rumblings of another collaboration, that was to become Hawk. I was excited about the new album, but I didn’t think about a possible U.S. Tour. I assumed that they would do their usual European tour and be done with it. After all, Campbell is on a British label and not many people have heard of her, or Lanegan for that matter, in the U.S. It didn’t make that much sense to spend all the money sending them to the United States. However, I saw that they were having a U.S. tour. I still wasn’t convinced though. They had announced a few U.S. dates in 2008, but were ultimately canceled. I bought my ticket to the DC show a few days after they went on sale and I waited. The day finally came. On to the show!
I met up with about five friends and we got to the venue about 20 minutes before the opening act started. Willy Mason opened the show and set the tone with his solo Alternative Country set. Mason is a really talented performer who had several good songs. As much as I wanted to see Mark and Isobel, I was content with Mason singing as many songs as he wanted. He ended his set at about 945 and we waited for the main act. We waited some more. Finally, after about 30 minutes, the band came out. Finally, Isobel and Mark were taking the stage.
They started the set with the chilling “We Die and See Beauty Reign“. They sang a few songs from their newest record, Hawk, including the rollicking “You won’t Let Me Down Again“, the sultry “Come Undone“, and a great version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Snake Song“. They chose a few songs from Ballad of the Broken Seas including the title track complete with cello solo by Campbell. Lanegan sang the always chilling, “The Circus is Leaving Town“. He thanked the crowd and went off stage.
Willy Mason who provided vocals on the album came on stage again much to the crowd’s delight, as his opening set was very popular. He sang the other Townes Van Zandt cover on the album, “No Place to Fall“. Being a huge fan of Van Zandt, I was very excited. He also sang “Cool Water” and one of his own original compositions. He left the stage to great applause and Lanegan came back on stage to great applause. It should be pointed out Campbell was very adept at getting Lanegan to smile and speak on stage – a rarity.
They focused more on songs from 2008’s Sunday at Devil Dirt. They sang “Salvation“, “Who Built the Road” and “Backburner“. The band went off stage to great applause, and after a minute or two they came back on stage for the encore. They started the familiar strings of “Revolver” from Ballad of the Broken Seas. They also sang “Do You Wanna (Come Walk With Me)“. But, for me the highlight came at the end, with a rocking version of Hank Williams, Sr.’s “Ramblin’ Man” that appeared on Ballad of the Broken Seas, and the Lanegan classic “Wedding Dress” that tore the house down.
I waited four years for that show. It was worth it.