Greg Dulli Chicago Review – UR Chicago
Reviewed By: Justin Valmassoi, UR Chicago
Just between you and me: I have an Afghan Whigs tattoo.
Every year I wonder, is this the year I regret this tattoo? Is this the year Greg Dulli does something irreversibly shitty and I can no longer go, “Oh that? That’s my Afghan Whigs tattoo” with pride?
When I saw the word “unplugged” on the flyer I thought to myself, here it is. The time has finally come. We had a good run, my Afghan Whigs tattoo and I. No more wifebeaters and sleeveless t-shirts for me I guess. Que sera sera.
Let me tell you how happy I am to be proven wrong. 2010 is not that year, and it’s no small feat. We’re talking about the guy who’s managed to put some sort of porno guitar line into every song he’s written since 1993, the one with the indescribable croon/scream who uses the word baby like most people use commas, the white James Brown from Ohio that stole the soul and has been filtering old Stax records through the Sub Pop sound for 15 years. We’re talking about the guy who can layer dueling guitars atop a wall of horns and handclaps like no other, cigarette tattered throat belting out lines like “I got a dick for a brain” without irony suddenly showing up at The Double Door with two amplified acoustic guitars, a piano and a cello and still managing to dominate the stage and satisfy a sold-out capacity crowd through a full set and two encores. Greg Dulli isn’t a musician he’s a fucking magician.
And it’s always a sold-out show, isn’t it? Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers, Gutter Twins, solo tour … People always talk about a rabid fan base, but after 20 years of banging out tunes to bang to without dropping the ball or losing his magic, without ever giving less than a mindblowingly good stage show Dulli’s got Bieber-level crowd love and he knows it. So sure, you have to order three beers at a time because there’s no wiggle room in the shoulder-to-shoulder sea of eager faces, but who cares? It’s Greg Dulli. Any of his shows will get you drunk on pure swagger even if you never make it to the bar.
So those of us lucky enough to get in got treated to two hours of Dulli’s greatest hits as chosen by Greg Dulli, plucked from the entire Whigs/Twilight/Gutter catalogue, only stripped down and teased out, so that instead of screaming over a wall of guitar and backup singers he could croon and cajole every ounce of booze-fueled menace and sexual tension he’s built a (very solid) career on out of everything from old school Congregation era gems (‘Let Me Lie To You’, ‘Miles iz Ded’) to Powder Burns highlight ‘Bonnie Brae’. Oh, and John Curley came all the way up from Cincinnatti to play bass for 45 minutes, so it was a little heavy on Afghan Whigs tunes, but I couldn’t for the life of me find anyone in the crowd who had a problem with that. Otherwise, what were you looking for? Björk’s ‘Hyperballad’? Yeah, he did that. ‘God’s Children’? Yep. Got it. A little bit of ‘Pinball Wizard’ in the middle of “Teenage Wristband’? It wouldn’t be a Greg Dulli show if the band wasn’t weaving classic rock jams into their songs just to show off.
I know most of you are babies. Little tiny embryos that don’t understand that music and mood are not separate entities. If you do yourself one favor this year, skip your fourteenth pair of vintage deadstock Levi’s and go pick up Blackberry Belle or Gentlemen, or whatever the new Twilight Singers record that drops in December is called and acquaint yourself with the only white boy left on earth who still has some Motown in his soul.
At the very least it will be a better sex soundtrack than Merriweather Post Pavilion, provided any of you know how to have sex.
If you don’t, I suggest learning that first.