London 2004 Review – DIS

Author: Nick Cowen
Originally published at: http://www.drownedinsound.com/articles/8887.html

The Twilight Singers
The venue: London Islington Academy
The date: 28th January 2004

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and The Twilight Singers could be called the Fizz Bucket Wifflebats, and the band would still, at its essence, be the Greg Dulli show.

Not to take anything away from messirs Bobby McIntyre (drums), Jon Skibic (lead guitar), Scott Ford (bass) and Mathias Schneeberger (keyboards) – their talent and committment are beyond question. But the fact is, that everyone crammed into the Islington Academy was there to watch Dulli, who swaggered on stage behind his band mates clutching a cup of booze in one hand, and a fag in the other. The moment he let rip with his leering wail, he lit up the venue like a pinball machine, and it only got better from there.

On the Twilight Singers records, Dulli used the talents of an army of musicians and back-up singers, and crafted songs boasting a smooth polish – although Blackberry Belle sported more of a muddy groove than its predecessor.

In a live environment, however, the songs are stripped down by the five-piece band, given a full frontal rock arrangement and then blasted out of the speakers at eleven. Where songs such as ‘Esta Noche’ and ‘Papillion’ once cooed, they now snarl like a couple of demented stalkers. The sleaze factor of ‘Teenage Wristband’ gets tripled, the grimy guitar line of ‘Decatur Street’ is packing a couple of switchblades and soaring epics like ‘King Only’ and ‘The Killer’ are now miasmic titans capable of levelling mountain ranges.

A decade of fronting the Afghan Whigs has also honed Dulli into one of alternative rock’s finest frontmen with a trademark howl that stamps authority over every sentiment that comes out of his mouth. Another string to his bow is that Dulli has now crossed over into Johnny Cash territory. Not in the “I-was-a-fundamentalist-Christian-and-am-about-to-pop-my-clogs” kind of way, but in an “other-peoples’-songs-turn-to-pure-gold-dust-in-my-hands” kind of way.

Numbers by John Coltrane, Kate Bush, and even the Outkast were transformed into barbed, “Dullified” versions of their former selves, losing none of their original impact. A twisted take on the chorus to ‘All You Need Is Love’ was tossed in at one point to segue one tale of heart-ache to another. Only the back end of ‘Layla’ got away with sounding like the original, and that was probably because the song is about Eric Clapton wanting to shag his mate’s wife in the first place.

Dulli’s biggest trump card, is his passion – he’s clearly in love with his day job, and watching the man go at the set list with the enthusiasm of a drunken lech given access to the playmate of the month is a spectacle to behold. The crowd were treated to two encores, two hours of music, and even some long missed Afghan Whigs numbers made it into the closing set.

“These are my boys!” Dulli screamed, his arms around his bandmates, hanging off the edge of the stage, grinning like a kid at Christmas time. The Twilight Singers serve up rock at its realest, kids. If you’re not there next time, you’re an idiot.

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