NYC 00 Review

by Andrew Montgomery
MusicToday | Original Article

Everyone’s been saying rock ‘n’ roll is dead, but a tight band playing rollicking, funky tunes can still conquer hearts and minds, seeming like the freshest sound around. The Twilight Singers, led by Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, offer no smoke and mirrorsójust great playing, loads of charisma, and, most importantly, great songs.

Greg Dulli is known for his magnetic presence, his eternal soul music obsession, and his penchant for tearing up stages with the Whigs. His Twilight Singers persona, on the other hand, is a revelation. Dulli’s incredibly relaxed, at times delivering vocals from an easy chair, bobbing with the groove like some old rasta. The thunder and lightning of the Whigs has been forsaken for a funkier, dubbier sound, akin to the New Orleans gumbo of The Meters. A lot of that’s due to the accompaniment of Crescent City natives Howlin’ Maggie, whose Harold “Happy” Chichester, Lance Elliott, and Carlton Smith appeared with Dulli on piano, guitar, and drums, respectively, on this October night. All three played their asses off; in particular, Chichester, who also reprised his vocal turns on The Twilight Singers album, Twilight as Played by the Twilight Singers. He often ended up sharing the spotlight with Dulli and, from this showing, is quite a talent.

The majority of the seventy-minute set at this show was made up of songs from the album, but the band also played scorching versions of two Whigs tunesó”66″ and “Crazy.” There was also an anonymous new song, an old soul ballad (“Please Stay”), and a cover of “Dixie Peach Promenade,” by ’60s psychedelic great Skip Spence. All through the set, Dulli laughed and joked (especially with his main foil Chichester), and tossed off improvised song intros, like his version of Moby’s “Honey,” which segued into “Clyde.” Three songs later, Dulli toyed with the crowd by starting the ooh-ooh chant that marks both Twilight’s “Verti-Marte” and the Whigs’ “Going To Town.” They played neither, however, instead tearing into “66,” off AW’s 1965 LP. The next song was a dubby version of Howlin’ Maggie’s “Easy To Be Stupid,” which positively cooked. Chichester stormed it, singing beautifully, while playing the melodica in proper Augustus Pablo style.

“Love” and “Annie Mae” sounded immense; kept in the back-to-back sequence they share on the record, they maintained their groove, but were more visceral. Actually, most of the Twilight Singers’ songs worked better live; in part, because the subtle vocal interplay came out more, and also because the songs were much more dynamic in the hands of such a tight group. The encores proved to be the night’s highlight, and yet were comprised of just a duet and a solo. (Go figure.) First “Happy” Chichester joined Dulli for a haunting piano and guitar run-through of “Into The Street,” then Greg, by himself, finished with an achingly beautiful piano version of “Love,” which somehow topped the band’s earlier rendition.

If you haven’t seen The Twilight Singers yet, better hope they head out on the road again soon. These guys will restore your tired faith in music and soothe your fevered brow. Ask anyone who was at this show. Long live rock and roll!

by Andrew Montgomery

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