Greg Dulli – NY Show Review

By JON CARAMANICA, New York Times

Of all the acts playing the first night of this year’s CMJ, perhaps only Greg Dulli remembered what the festival was like in its early incarnations. Mr. Dulli is 45, more than twice the age of many of the young musicians hoping to use CMJ as a stepping stone to something great.

That his first ever solo tour passed through New York during CMJ was a nice accident, though judging by the audience at the Bowery Ballroom, there wasn’t much overlap between Mr. Dulli’s faithful – and his fans certainly qualify – and the rest of the people trawling around New York’s clubs, looking for the next great band.

Those gathered here found their great band two decades ago: the Afghan Whigs, for which Mr. Dulli was the frontman. (He’s currently a member of the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins.) He’s charismatic and sweaty, treating singing, and romance, as forms of pugilism: someone always gets hurt.

“Let’s get those lights back down,” he said about midway through his set, holding out until he was bathed only by faint blue and orange spotlights, all but obscuring him. He sang “Let Me Lie To You,” by the Afghan Whigs, a cruel ache of a song in which you “discover your lover/ between the legs of another/ and he’s loving it.” Everyone swooned, enamored of how easily the hurt came to Mr. Dulli.

The show was primarily acoustic – Mr. Dulli was joined by a guitar player, a string player, and a drummer – which left no real protection for his scratchy, soul-belter voice, which turned out to be a fine decision. He spanned his whole catalog, from Afghan Whigs (“66,” “Summer’s Kiss”) to Twilight Singers (“Forty Dollars”), creating a mood engulfing enough to make someone forget that around them, a major festival was swirling, where bands were fighting hard in hopes of lasting long enough to be as insulated from the world around them as Mr. Dulli and his happy flock were.

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