A Dark Night With the Gutter Twins
Try as they might Tuesday, Great Northern couldn’t bring much levity to a heavy night at the Showbox. Their fuzzy, bordering-on-pop sound was like the prologue of a bad dream—when you know something bad’s coming, but for the moment, things are truly swell. In this case, badness (in the coolest sense of the word) was the looming presence of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli: The Gutter Twins.
While the place was still pretty well-lit, Rachel Stolte’s beautiful, rich voice swirled around the venue’s columns like velvet-winged bats. But between an over-rumbling bassline and our virgin ears—we hadn’t heard songs from either band prior to the show—we had no idea what she was lamenting. (Lament being our best guess; she sounded inherently sorrowful.) Solon Bixler, sharing vocal duties, seemed to lack a voice completely; tambourine and bass and keys swept lushly over it, leaving nothing. Despite the sound issues, when they wrapped up their set, we wanted more Northern.
Then the lights went down to a deep purple, to near absence. And stayed there. (Thus the shitty video.) The Gutter Twins, it seems, thrive in darkness; flash photography had even been banned.
The packed Showbox seemed to lean Lanegan, as we’d expected, going nuts every time he let his perfectly ragged baritone rip. The famous brooder won the city over while fronting the Screaming Trees, and his Seattle appearances since have been few and far between. Dulli had his supporters, too—a group of dudes near us screamed like tweens when the Twins slowly burned through an Afghan Whigs or Twilight Singers song. Honestly, we weren’t sure which songs were from Saturnalia, the Twins’ long-anticipated and just-released album, and which were from Dulli’s other projects. It didn’t much matter: The band—three, sometimes four, guitars, keyboard, drums, electric cello(?)—had a somehow soft, intoxicating intensity. That cello-thing swooped and threaded through everything, even softening Dulli’s nearly-off-key higher pitch. It was music for the intriguing bad dream, the kind you don’t mind languishing in a bit longer.
The pairing of darkness, rumbling rock, Lanegan-love, and PBR tallboys was too heavy for some: A guy standing beside us fell on his ass. Twice. Then puked on himself. Then fell on his face. This just after the Twins wrapped a song featuring the refrain, “Don’t let the darkness eat you up.” Ha.
Dulli opened the more loose, irony-tinged encore by saying they would play Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike”—that he’d be Chris Cornell and Lanegan would “play the role of Eddie Vedder.” He turned to Lanegan, who hadn’t said a non-lyric word and hadn’t loosened his deathgrip on his mic stand all night, to get a reaction. There was none. “He’s still shy as a motherfucker,” Dulli said, amused. Lanegan just stood, a rock, waiting for the next song.
It wasn’t “Hunger Strike,” but did get tagged with a partial Trees tune—”Shadow of the Season.” The Twins followed that with half a dozen more songs, including Lanegan’s “No Easy Action” and “Methamphetamine Blues,” tossed off with vigor and charm. Before the band quietly left the stage, the lights even came up a bit.