Nice ‘n’ Sleazy

Chicagoist

Last night was all about the Gutter Twins. The Double Door was packed, and the pheromones soaking the crowd served to fill in what little empty space there was. Greg Dulli’s latest incarnation of The Twilight Singers has expanded to include the whiskey-soaked tenor of ex-Screaming Trees / Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Mark Lanegan, and we couldn’t dream of a better aural foil for Dulli’s own decadent squall. Dulli opened the show, strutting about, knowing he owned the city for at least a six block radius, and exuding a capable superiority. In the past Dulli’s drunken shenanigans have either elevated or deep-sixed his live shows, but last night we were treated to a clear-eyed man clearly at the top of his game.

And then Mark Lanegan came out.

While Dulli is the penultimate frontman, sneering and embracing his crowd, Lanegan seems to be there purely in thrall to the song. In the moment. Beholden to his muse. Yes, we wax poetic, but if you’ve seen the man lose himself, draw into himself, and bury himself in impossible seclusion even while surrounded by 700 adoring hearts, you’d see why we are pushed towards well-deserved lyricism.

We only wish the whole evening had been so satisfying.

Upon arriving at Double Door, Twilight Singer keyboardist Jeff Klein was commanding the stage with tortured songs of love gone bad. Reminding us of Jon Brion’s performance at Intonation, Klein created guitar and drum loops onstage to accompany himself. As his heartrending wail reached a climax in a lyric having something to do with breaking the bones of the one who broke his heart, we retreated for the safe haven of the DD basement.

Second opener Stars of Track and Field turned in a set that was high on artifice and raw talent, but low on heart. The dual guitars and vocals of Jason Bell and Kevin Calaba created an atmospheric sound reminiscent of Coldplay that played better live than on record, despite the occasional bouts of Rock God posing. SOTAF have perfected an electronic pop formula, and have plenty of chemistry together – to the point where we half-expected them to start making out. At least that would have seemed motivated by genuine feeling. The trio are accomplished musicians, but their show is too calculated (down to Calaba’s bandolero mustache borrowed from Brandon Flowers and Bell’s shaggy-haired Lord Byron look) and is devoid of vibrancy. Rather than explore the limits of their music, SOTAF seem content to settle for this until something that truly excites them comes along.

Twilight Singers play again tonight at Double Door.

Written with Scott Smith

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