The Gutter Twins, Manchester Review
Manchester Evening News
THAT Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan have both shared more than a passing fondness for drugs use is often repeated (Lanegan was a teenage heroin addict, and is said to have saved Dulli’s life by getting him off cocaine).
What is not said, if it is said at all, is that Mark Lanegan is by far one of the most gifted vocalists and songwriters of the last 20 years.
Most people will be aware of his work with Queens of the Stone Age, Screaming Trees and Isabelle Campbell, but it has been his much under exposed solo works Field Songs and Bubblegum that have been the true high points of his career, the stripped down folk backing laying bare his cracked growl.
Tonight he rightly and necessarily takes centre stage and remains almost completely still throughout, his faintly nodding head the only sign of life. Apparently this is Lanegan when he is rocking out.
The much more effervescent Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers fame, the other Twin, makes up for what Lanegan lacks, and spends the majority of the gig fizzing round him and goading the audience.
For those of you have not heard it, The Gutter Twins’ work is more akin to Lanegan’s solo stuff, but with more polished production.
From the first track, Saturnalia’s opener God’s Children, it quickly becomes clear that we are on for quite a show tonight, their complimentary voices creating a stirringly dark atmosphere.
Single Idle Hands is one of the more up-tempo moments, but no one is moving and it is clearly frustrating Dulli who asks the audience to imagine, “It’s like a football game and Liverpool’s kicking their ass”. The man has done his research (it is the night of the Champions League Quarter Final between Liverpool and Arsenal).
He begs the audience to “shake their hips”, but how are you supposed to dance to this? It would be like dancing at a wake.
He asks the audience to, “Let me feel you”, and finally this is met with wild cheers. The crowd are clearly appreciating the performance, just not in the way the band want.
They continue undaunted, and dig out surprise highlight of the night, a cover of Massive Attack’s soulful classic Live With Me: a great track by a supreme band given a new twist by the Gutter Twins. It is still slow, but rather than being mournful, it is almost threatening.
After a quick break the band are coaxed back on for an encore, always a bit of a sham, and we are treated to two Lanegan solo tracks: the awesome Hit The City, originally featuring P. J. Harvey, and Methamphetamine Blues. Awesome moments that remind us we are in the presence of a rock legend.
Closing track Number 9 sees two people in front of me gently swaying from side to side. This is the closest thing to hip shaking Dulli’s going to get.
The main problem with Saturnalia is that it is over-produced. Here the limited acoustics of Academy 3 have unintentionally stripped the music down and given it a raw, rustic feel, and the sound is massively enhanced as a result.
It has been a night to remember. We leave knowing we have seen two top musicians, both of them probably lucky to be here, at the top of the game. It is time they were given a bit more commercial success as solo artists.