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The Twilight Singers fuse beauty and ferocity

The Boston Globe

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff

Here’s the trouble with making a brilliant album of cinematic scope and intense nuance: It’s nearly impossible to play it live.

Maybe that’s why Greg Dulli, the former Afghan Whig and mastermind of the Twilight Singers, performed only six of the 12 stunning songs from “Powder Burns” at the Paradise on Monday. Written while Dulli was coming out of a seven-year drug binge and laid to tape in a damaged New Orleans studio only weeks after Hurricane Katrina, the songs lasso the kaleidoscopic extremes of emotion that accompanied both those events. Our Boston nightclub, for all its charms, inspired no such catharsis in either the band or the audience.

That said, it was a great rock show — greater still when the opening act’s electric violinist came out to add harsh textures to “There’s Been an Accident” and “Papillon,” the latter one of the dozen or so older Twilight Singers tracks Dulli dusted off.

The set featured a reliably delicious onslaught of Dulli’s heavy, beautiful chords, a signature assortment of croons and screams, and the sort of dapper persona that generally eludes rockers. Dulli wears his dress shirt unbuttoned just so, uses a modified seat belt for a guitar strap, and has equipped his microphone stand with an ergonomically positioned cup holder. He did a combined cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and quoted Aerosmith’s “Dream On” at the start of trip-hoppy “Teenage Wristband” — moves that require no small surplus of attitude.

Like the artist, his songs swing brutally. Rocket-fueled show opener “I’m Ready,” the blissfully ravaged dealer’s lament “Forty Dollars,” and hard, moody “Annie Mae” (stripped, sadly, of the track’s original funk) showcased Dulli’s masterful feel for fusing beauty and ferocity. Nothing, however, captured the artist’s gloriously dark depths like the moment during “Candy Cane Crawl” when Dulli dragged a female fan who wouldn’t quiet down onto the stage, buried his hand in her hair, and forced her to waltz while she silently freaked out.

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