London 06 Review

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When I say that Greg Dulli, the former leader of American alt-rock legends The Afghan Whigs, is a man of substance, it isn’t purely a weight gag (the extra pounds on his Greek-American frame notwithstanding). There’s a magnetism, a charisma and a gravitas to him you simply don’t get with most rock singers.

Dulli’s new band is The Twilight Singers and if they are half as good as the breathtaking gig I saw at the Islington Academy in 2004, I tell myself beforehand, this is still gonna be one of the gigs of the year. It’s half as good.

“You’re saying that the victim doesn’t want it to end?” he sings on “When We Two Parted”, “Good/I get to dress up and play the assassin again/It’s my favourite…” This is Dulli in excelsis. It’s one of two songs from The Afghan Whigs’ classic Gentlemen album, the other being “Fountain and Fairfax”. The forked-tongue opening line “Angel, I’m sober, I got off that stuff…” sends shivers: nobody sings the word “angel” with quite as much menace as Dulli.

Nobody smokes cigarettes quite like him, either. “Guess I chose the wrong week to quit smoking”, a Dulliphile female friend says as a cloud curls around Greg, not for effect, but achieving effect all the same.

He may have risen with the Sub Pop generation, but grunge’s only legacy to Dulli and his band is a certain edgy timbre to the guitar, as minor chords crash into one another. Structurally, there’s a huge black music element, as proven by his taste in cover versions. Last time I saw the Twilights, it was “Hey Ya”; tonight, it’s Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. We also get a lacklustre snatch of “All You Need Is Love”, and a wonderful (and all-too-brief) encore of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.

But when Dulli hits the mark, he’s deadly: “Guess I must be dumb,” he sings, borrowing from the greatest of them all, “you had a pocket full of horses, Trojan, and some of them used…”, and the Prince tattoo on my bicep gets goosebumps.

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