Grunge Star Shines in Twilight
Indianapolis 04 Concert Review
By David Lindquist
Greg Dulli made sure to remember Thursday’s melancholy rock ‘n’ roll anniversary during a late-night performance at Broad Ripple’s Patio nightclub.
It was 10 years to the day that Kurt Cobain’s corpse was found at his Seattle home.
A few years before that, when Dulli fronted the Afghan Whigs and Cobain fronted a pre-fame incarnation of Nirvana, the two singers were fast friends and label mates on Sub Pop Records.
Dulli sang some lines from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Indianapolis, and more pointedly an excerpt of Cobain’s “School” — an early-career parallel to the cliques and tough breaks of the music biz:
“Wouldn’t you believe it, just my luck? No recess.”
These days, Dulli performs with an outfit called the Twilight Singers. For better or worse, the 38-year-old has outlasted any drama attached to the grunge explosion and the heyday of modern rock.
He basically toils in obscurity, although a packed Patio reflected a healthy level of respect for the silver-tongued playboy who made a name on songs about sadomasochism and a willingness to kill for love.
Dulli, physically resembling a combination of Marlon Brando and John Belushi in their younger days, remains a magnetic anti-hero. The room’s red velvet drapes have never provided a performer with a more fitting backdrop, and the stage lights were cut to a stark minimum.
He seems to have found a foil in Twilight guitarist Jon Skibic. Dulli exhorted Skibic to “play like a man,” and later taunted, “You want some of this?” with a grin.
In truth, all of the side players were great, which allowed Dulli to be ragged when the time was right. For a guy who has an ashtray and drink holder attached to his microphone stand, these tattered moments were rare.
Mostly, he stretched his raspy voice to wherever he desired and the show featured one stylish creation of rock-meets-R&B flowing to the next.
Trivia champs may remember that John Fogerty once was sued because his solo material sounded too similar to songs he wrote with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Let’s hope that type of ridiculous claim is never leveled against Dulli, who’s yet to stray from the Whigs’ method of operation.
In short, bad choices are made in the wee hours and someone must pay. Only Dulli could pull off the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” as a sinister intro to his own cheating-hearted “Love.” He turned one of the all-time anthems of altruism into a cautionary tale about spreading one’s affections too thin.
Once the encore arrived, the Cincinnati native was ready for some laughs. By musing about Peyton Manning’s championship-free winter and the Pacers’ unfashionable pinstripes, Dulli did his best to rile the natives.
Even as a Buckeye, he’s welcome back any time.