Boston 06 Review – Transform
TransformOnline : Music : Articles : The Twilight Singers
By Tim Bugbee
live at Paradise (Boston, MA) Nov. 14th, 2006.
TransformOnline – Music Article
Greg Dulli’s best known for putting Cincinnati on the map via The Afghan Whigs (has there even been anything else of note?), but his muse didn’t just stop because the band imploded several years back. His predilection for various vices has also been well documented, and between living in New Orleans and L.A. it’s not hard to imagine that this could be kept fed in a voracious manner. Writing music as the main framework around these sorts of activities has been a vein heavily mined (or, alternatively, tapped) in the past 50 or so years of rock music, but Dulli’s proven that it’s still a viable fountainhead. The premise of rounding up fellow psychonaut Mark Lanegan as The Gutter Twins never saw the light of day, but perhaps just mutated into this current incarnation of The Twilight Singers. Since I’d not seen either of them play live since at least ’92, I was kinda curious to see how they’d pull it off. It can’t be easy to switch from lead focal point of a band to part-time gunslinger / spotlight hoarder in another, but Mark’s recent collaboration with the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age and Isobel Campbell shows he’s more than willing to take on this sort of assignment. Similarly, Greg stepped back from the front of the stage during a recent jaunt with Italy’s Afterhours, and as a whole, the live show as two complete units (i.e. with and without Mark) worked about as good as you could imagine. The blend of nicotine-bleached Dulli and whisked-soaked Lanegan showed they were the perfect complement to each other’s voices.
First, a word or two about the openers. Jeff Klein did the solo acoustic thing, but obviously put a bit more thought into it rather than becoming the next Jewel with a Y chromosome. He would use body slaps and other percussive modes, capture ’em and run ’em through a loop, play with some other pedals, and sing and play over the top. While not really my thing, it was good to see someone take a fresh approach, and his dexterous playing and nice vocal abilities would be put to good use as a player with The Twilight Singers later on. Up next were Portland, OR’s Stars Of Track And Field. Now, with a name like that, you know they aren’t the next big signing on Southern Lord, but this trio rocked way harder than men wearing ascots have any right to. Another unusual lineup, this time they took a page out of Albini’s book – but scribbled over it – so that instead of a drummer named Roland, they had a bass player named Mac (or was it Dell?). One singer would swap between guitar and keys; all three members sang. Fans of literate lyrics and Death Cab For Cutie / Belle & Sebastian vocal styling will find plenty here to make ’em happy.
On to the main event… The Twilight Singers strode triumphantly onto stage, cigs in hands or mouth (most had ashtrays taped to the mic stands and made use of them throughout the night. Even drummer Bobby MacIntyre was pummeling the drums with a lit coal clenched in his teeth). Immediately launching into a 1-2-3 punch (jaw, solar plexus, then side of the head) via “Teenage Wristband,” “I’m Ready,” and “Bonnie Brae,” Greg ceded band control to Mark for the new EP’s “Live With Me,” 1999’s title track of “I’ll Take Care of You” off Mark’s solo LP, and Bubblegum’s “Sideways in Reverse.” And speaking of the band, what a band! Immensely talented guys all around, including the supremely savage Bobby Mac on the kit, John Ford on bass, Jon Skibic on lead guitar, and Jeff Kleinon on piano/guitar. All four sang great and were really a cohesive unit: no surprise, since they’ve been on one or more recordings as well as the stage together numerous times. As silently as he came on stage, once he was done singing with eyes closed and hand on mic stand, Mark left. The rest of the set was heavy with Powder Burns and Blackberry Belle, with one track off the debut (“King Only”) and no Simone cover (“Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” the one I really wanted to hear… I guess I’ll have to make do with Espers’ version). Over the course of the show, Dulli was peppering songs with bits of covers’ lyrics, which gave a glimpse into his record collection (“Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “The Killing Moon,” “All You Need is Love,” “Ablemarle Station,” “Wish You Where Here”) until closer “Forty Dollars.”
Assuming they didn’t need a smoke break, they left the stage anyway, but soon came out for the last bits of the evening: two more from Lanegan (“Boogie Boogie” and the new EP’s “Flashback”) and ending with a thundering version of “Underneath the Waves.” Glancing around the room found more than a fair share of women present, and if you are somewhat baffled by Greg’s draw of the fairer sex, considering his less than athletic body type, I suggest you do an in-home screening of The Tao of Steve. Greg knows it’s all about confidence, and that’s something he’s never been lacking. Although, as I left the club, it was Mark I spied heading into the tour bus, female friend in tow.