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NYC Review –

There are several schools of thought out there regarding Greg Dulli. Some folks will go see Dulli every time he comes to town for the entertainment factor as much as the music. Anyone who has ever attended an Afghan Whigs or Twilight Singers show knows that Dulli can sometimes do as much colorful shit talking as he does singing. Others feel that Dulli’s hambone stage persona seriously undercut his credibility as an artist, and it’s easy to see their point. It isn’t always easy to take a gut wrenching break-up ballad like “When We Two Parted” seriously after a 15-minute monologue about Bobby Brown’s “Humpin’ Around.”

When Greg Dulli and his Twilight Singers arrived for their sold out gig at NYC’s Irving Plaza, they had more eyes on them than usual. The band’s newly released album Powder Burns, a triumph of epic proportions, has won the band scores of positive press. Dulli has as much heat on him now as he did back in the heyday of Afghan Whigs. It isn’t surprising then that Dulli chose to let the music do the talking during a taut, focused set that left the dazed crowd at the Plaza dripping with sweat.

Backed by the same musicians he’s been touring with since 2003 (save for the sorely missed Jon Skibic), Dulli kicked the show off in spectacular fashion with back-to-back punch of “I’m Ready” and Blackberry Belle’s “Esta Noche.” The band then took it down a notch for a cover of Martina Topley-Bird’s “Too Tough to Die.” Toward the end of the song, Dulli hushed the band and stepped to the microphone for what many assumed to be the first of several famous Dulli “asides.” Instead, Dulli merely introduced the band like any good bandleader should (“on the drums, from Miami Beach, Mr. Bobby MacIntyre!!!”) and went on with the rest of the song.

The band really hit its stride during a stretch when they were joined by former Afghan Whigs backup singer Steve Meyers. Meyers danced about the stage, led the crowd in party chants, and filled out the vocals duties on cuts like “Love” and the Whigs’ “66.” The folks out on the floor, unusually spirited for an NYC crowd, danced and shouted along with every tune, drowning out the band on the fist-pumping party anthem “Teenage Wristband.”

Naturally, it wasn’t all straight-faced rock n’ roll. During the climax of the breezy “Candy Cane Crawl,” Dulli danced about the stage and pulled a young lady from the crowd, whom he proceeded to serenade on his knees. Dulli, ever the pop culture aficionado, flavored songs with bits from Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Springsteen’s “On Fire.” An encore performance of “The Killer” segued into a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” a song so fresh and hip that most people don’t even know how seriously it’s going to rule their summers.

After a blazing rundown of The Afghan Whigs’ rehab tale “Fountain and Fairfax,” the Singers called it an evening, much to the chagrin of the hot, screaming fans that remained even after the houselights came up. A dozen songs in little over an hour is hardly what one would expect from a Greg Dulli show. Although the onstage reefer smoking and the baseball lectures were absent, Dulli’s voice was in top shape and the band delivered a lean rock performance. If the public reacts to these shows as positively as they have to Powder Burns, Mr. Dulli should brace himself for several more rounds of touring.

— Dan Tebo

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