Dulli’s Twilight Singers a new, improved Whigs

Concert review

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

“This means a lot to me to be here tonight, with all my friends and loved ones,” local alt-rock hero Greg Dulli told a packed Southgate House crowd on Tuesday night.

He brought his new band, the revamped Twilight Singers, for a homecoming that was a bit like the Greg Dulli Christmas Show.

His mother and sister were there, as was his old pal, bassist John Curley, co-conspirator for years in the Afghan Whigs.

There were plenty other friends, going back to college days, as well as ex-Whigs drummer Michael Horrigan and Whigs backup singer Doug Falsetti.

Like most Christmas shows, Dulli’s two-hour-plus concert included plenty of old favorites. Only, instead of carols, his chestnuts were bits of songs by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks and Prince, as well as a fairly complete take on the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and, for the best cover of the night, the instrumental interlude of “Layla,” done in the first encore with Dulli at the piano.

But the night’s biggest – if most predictable — surprise was the mini-reunion of the Whigs. For the second encore, Dulli and his fine new band – lead guitarist Jon Skibic, keyboardist Mathias Schneeberger, bassist Scott Ford and drummer Bobby Bacintyre — were joined by Curley on bass, Horrigan on tambourine and Falsetti on vocals, as they powered through some Whigs faves, including “Crazy” from the final album, 1965.

But along with nostalgia, Dulli had more urgent business, playing through the fine new album by his side project-turned-full-time-band, the Twilight Singers.

The first version of the group had been a sort of alt-rock cabaret, as he shared the spotlight and lead vocals with Harold Chichester. Back then; he still had the Whigs to rock out with.

With the Whigs gone, the Twilight Singers have been reborn as a dark and powerful rock band, an Afghan Whigs Mach II.

Ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips, Telecaster hanging at about Keith Richards level, Dulli drove his band through the new album, Blackberry Belle. Sinister highlights included “Martin Eden” (“Black out the windows, it’s party time”) and “The Killer” (“Your driver called. It’s time to go.”). He dedicated the former to his friend, singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, who committed suicide Oct. 21.

But along with paying tribute to departed friends and wowing the crowd of around 700 with his new rock band, there was also time to tease his mom. “So, what are you gonna get me for Christmas?” he asked, before suggesting, Dulli-style, a gift subscription to Hustler.

Curley did double duty, opening the show with his new band, Staggering Statistics, a trio with singer/guitarist Austin Brown and drummer David Cahill. The group’s half-hour set showed promise, but they’re still very much a new band. “I think you start this,” Curley had to prompt Brown at one point.

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