Twilight offers dark celebration of rock ‘n’ roll

Reuters

By Paul Gargano

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – “It’s the first day of summer, and tonight we are pagans,” Greg Dulli declared before launching into “I’m Ready,” the opening song of a two-hour hometown set on Wednesday night at the Avalon.

The Twilight Singers frontman has never been one to pine for salvation, instead using his music as an outlet for his addictions, afflictions and angst.

While the resulting music is dark, onstage in Hollywood it was delivered with an engaging charm and candor that transformed otherwise bleak offerings into communal celebrations of the human psyche.

Marrying a melodic sensibility with a raspy timbre and melodic tone, Dulli’s vocals were a distilled marriage of Paul Westerberg and Bruce Springsteen, delivering material that towed the line with the conflicted mind of Johnny Cash.

While Dulli splatters his indie-rock offerings with far more R&B than country twang, the chain-smoking singer-guitarist has staked his claim as this generation’s man in black.

Whether scorching through the white-hot Afghan Whigs nugget “Fountain and Fairfax” to rabid crowd response or spiraling through the Twilight Singers’ melancholic, keyboard-colored “King Only” and “Martin Eden,” it was as if Dulli’s music was written as an exercise in soul-searching, and performed as an exorcism of the demons he set to song.

He held the crowd captive through the 23-song set, frequently alluding to his addiction-checkered past, citing Aerosmith as one of his favorite bands before segueing a few bars of “Dream On” into “Love,” and rolling from the somber and wistful “Candy Cane Crawl” into an impressively soulful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It on.”

While the spotlight never strayed from the frontman, lead guitarist Dave Rosser shined throughout, riding his whammy bar to achieve space-age squeals and harmonics on “Esta Noche” and “Too Tough to Die.”

Manuel Agnelli, the frontman of opening Italian import Afterhours, contributed keyboards during the Twilight set, offering vital depth to “Bonnie Brae” and “There’s Been an Accident.”

Former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan (and Dulli’s bandmate in the Gutter Twins) joined Twilight for a four-song encore that culminated in a closing cover of Primal Scream’s “Deep Hit of the Morning Sun.”

Though Dulli’s melodic sensibility and Lanegan’s deep dirges made for an interesting back-and-forth, Lanegan’s lack of presence was a mismatch alongside the charismatic frontman.

“Tonight we were the Twilight Singers,” Dulli said before leaving the stage. “Summer is officially here.”

Salvation may have been in short supply at the self-professed “pagan” celebration, but there was no lack of musical revelation, cementing Greg Dulli’s status as one of the premier talents to emerge from the ’90s postpunk, alternative scene.

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