As far as partnerships are concerned most of us can agree that the more we have in common with each other; the more we are likely to gain success as a team.
Similarity creates harmony: if people look, move and think the same way they are more than likely to get along and create something good, something special. That's what we assume?
However, this is not always the case, especially not when we refer to the musical partnership of Isobel Campbell (former member of Scottish group Belle and Sebastian) and Mark Lanegan (former member of the Queens of the Stone Age and the Screaming Trees). No indeed; the obvious contrasts between these two very different musical performers work, not against each other as one would expect, but instead create a marvellous musical spectacle both pleasing to the eye and, perhaps most importantly, the ears.
Their set was a mixture of folk and blues orientated tunes opening with Revolver a slow melancholic ballad - slow and enchanted - moving on to Deus ibi est, a faster paced number sounding almost like a marching song. Their sound with the exception of Lanegan's vocals reminded me of Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley with a similar vocal ability. Mark Lanegan;s grungy rock background compared to Isobel Campbell's more indy folk background creates, vocally, the perfect contrast. Lanegan's vocal tone is gruff, very low and husky, while Campbell's voice is higher, light-sounding and sensuous.
As an audio performance Lanegan,s voice seems to lay the foundations of every song with a masculine stubborn complexity while Campbell simply coats his foundations with beautiful counter rhythms and melodies which dance above, yet in partnership with his deep voice and his words. Certainly, in most of the couple's songs, there did not appear to be one set melody to follow particularly in songs like Little Sadie and I'll take care of you. There seemed to be layers upon layers of folk cum blues-like melodies within each piece which built up like the calm before a storm eventually releasing a musical downpour of heated passion and vocalistic beauty.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects to watching this performance is the very apparent musical multi-tasking talent that both Campbell and her band possess. She floated gracefully from one instrument to the next, while the rest of the band mixed and matched with various instruments including a double bass, organs, and something which resembled a wobble board played by Campbell herself.
Indeed some of the most impressive moments of the performance and perhaps some of the most inspiring musically, were the moments where Campbell performed a few solo songs, beautiful songs such as O love is teasing and Widow;s Song. Although the stage was missing Lanegan's reputable presence, in those moments Campbell's voice and her skills as a cellist were explored to their full potential, much to everyone's satisfaction.
Largely the audience for this particular performance was a mixed bag. There was certainly no definable age or target audience. It appeared from the very beginning of the gig that the audience were there to appreciate good music and, to their credit, gave every song their undivided attention. In fact the only real criticism one could say against Campbell and Lanegan was that there was simply not enough encouraging audience interaction from them. As result of this there were a few occasions where a stifling silence could have been filled with some cheery banter but it was not to be.
In any case, whatever the cause of this lack of communication, whether it be nerves or simply part of the act, this performance was entertaining and influential and for anyone who enjoys inspiring melodic indy-folk and blues music sung and played to perfection, this is the performance for you.
© Lauren Quinn, 07 August 2007. First published at www.Edinburghguide.com.