Spaceland 04 Review
Live in L.A.
by Jay Babcock
Photo by Chris Cuffaro
THE TWILIGHT SINGERS
at Spaceland, April 15
When the Twilight Singers (ex–Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli’s new five-piece) saunter in from the Greyhound-size band van parked ostentatiously in front of the club, it’s close to midnight. That is, it’s long past twilight — appropriate, given the late-late-LATE-night shenanigans Dulli is up to.
Dulli seems to improve the more he drinks and smokes. He knows this; that’s why he has a custom-built microphone stand with a drink holder and an ashtray. Midsong, playing guitar and yowling one of his many dark rock & roll highway tunes, he’ll motion with puckered lips and two fingers for a cigarette, which will be brought to him, already lit, by a stagehand. The room, full of career drinkers and childless adults, cheers every move, especially when, starting the encore, Dulli gets behind the keyboard and becomes a one-man Rat Pack, or Don Rickles at the ivories. In the middle of one song with a decent swing, Dulli notes, “This song sounds like fucking,” and adds with a wink, “You know, the way we do.” He playfully insults a female fan’s requests/demands; he muses about a rendezvous with Demi Moore’s assets; finally, he busts a breakaway beer bottle on his bass player’s head. Between the laffs, there are impromptu, rather marvelous renditions of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” OutKast’s “Roses” (“I know you’d like to thank your shit don’t stank/But lean a little closer/See that roses really smell like boo-boo”), Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” and, in a duet with a typically ill-at-ease Mark Lanegan, an are-they-really-playing-that? arrangement of “Strange Fruit,” the lynching song made famous by Billie Holiday.
Dulli’s plowed but not sloppy, the band are laughing, the audience is enjoying the well-past-midnight ride. Dulli’s the rare whiteguy with Prince-like ambition and actual range — if not dance skills — and it seems like he could go all night. “I’m not all that,” Dulli remarks, “but I think I am all that,” and you realize that’s his key: the boozer’s bottomless self-belief, blossoming in the darkest hour.