Twilight stars shine
By Christopher John Treacy
It was cool to hear the mix-tape variety of the between-set music for Monday’s Twilight Singers show at the Paradise. Former ABBA siren Frida’s 1982 Phil Collins-produced single ‘‘I Know There’s Something Going On” gave way to Janis Ian’s ‘‘At Seventeen,” and cuts by Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne were merged with snarky white-boy hip-hop tracks.
No doubt the tracks were hand-picked by Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli, whose eclectic taste is what fueled the unique sound of his former band, Afghan Whigs, as it does his current collective.
Dulli’s band began the same way that its new ‘‘Powder Burns” CD opens: After setting the stage with the instrumental ‘‘Toward the Waves,” the Twilight Singers ripped into ‘‘I’m Ready” with balls-to-the-wall abandon.
Dulli has acknowledged in interviews that ‘‘Powder Burns” is largely about his struggle to live drug-free after years of dangerous debauchery. ‘‘Bonnie Brae” recounts the painful drug-related destruction of a close friend and in a concert setting the song became a throttling powerhouse.
But Dulli’s always told stories about characters on society’s fringes, the rush of living fast and the costs of the related crash-and-burn.
Backed by bassist Scott Ford, drummer Bobby MacIntyre and guitarist Dave Rosser, and looking Johnny Cash-like in all black, Dulli reached back to his Afghan Whigs catalog for the smart fuzz-pop of ‘‘66.” ‘‘I never felt so out of control!” he bellowed.
Similarly, the reckless energy of ‘‘Teenage Wristband” posed the question, ‘‘Are you ready for the ride of your life?” Aerosmith’s ‘‘Dream On” served as the appropriate overture for ‘‘Love” from the Twilight Singers’ 2000 debut.
The Singers were tight without being stiff, but the soulful subtext that rings through Dulli’s best Afghan Whigs material was noticeably missing. He compensated with plenty of emotional force and gut-wrenching howls and even covered the Gnarls Barkley hit ‘‘Crazy” as an encore. But the show was just too loud; the nuances that give Dulli’s music its idiosyncratic appeal were lost in favor of sheer volume.
Joining the Twilight Singers on keyboards was Manuel Agnelli, the frontman for the night’s opener, After Hours, a band Dulli devotedly supports. The shaggy lads from Milan, Italy, oozed ’70s retro chic.Though Agnelli’s big voice is a notable asset, After Hours’ glamish, prog-metal sound and arena rock antics just seemed silly in the modest confines of the Paradise.