esta noche: twilight singers live
New York, NY June 1 2006
True confessions: I avoid Dulli, sometimes. No, really, I do.
That said: I don’t know that there is a more heavily travelled playlist on my iPod that what I have labelled “Dullimania” (Afghan Whigs + Twilight Singers, doh) and there are times it is on replay, over and over and over again, because it will elate me or excite me or impel me but no matter what, IT MAKES ME FEEL, even when I would rather be dead or numb or detached or absent because FEELING HURTS TOO FUCKING MUCH.
With the last record Dulli cut his heart out of his chest and burned it onto cd’s, and now he is out of the 40 days of mourning, writing songs that sound like the finale of an epic musical — there was more to that one cover from Jesus Christ Superstar back in the day than most people get — and he never, ever, EVER phones it in.
That’s the thing. There is no halfway with Dulli. There is no going to a show and standing at the back bar (okay. AS IF I COULD EVER DO THAT. theoretically.) You could be back there and unless you were completely dead, I’m talking zombie here, that voice and that attitude and that charisma and that voice that purrs and soars and screams will reach across the room, grab you by the throat, and bang your head against the bar until you had no choice but to pay attention. HE MEANS IT.
And this is maybe, halfway, sort of kind of getting close to describing Irving Plaza tonight. Nevermind that I left the house throwing fate to the winds, wherever I ended up I ended up, only to arrive and find that THERE WAS NO LINE and I was first and I was, like the dork I am, front and fucking center, tossed into the maelstrom. There was no sitting this one out. There was no being a casual observer. It was baptism – by fire, by whiskey, by sweat. This audience was not just singing along, they were testifying at the top of their collective lungs, outsinging Dulli the entire night on every song, the new songs as though they were 10 years old, the last Twilight faves anthemic — “Teenage Wristband” felt more like teenage wasteland, like I was singing something as near and dear to me as “Baba O’Riley” or “Jumping Jack Flash” — and by the time we reached “Fountain And Fairfax,” those astounding guitar crescendos and all, it was the fucking Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Powder Burns did not grow on me immediately. Or even on fifth or sixth listen. But that wasn’t Greg, that was me with blinders on, plowing through and hanging on and let’s not add anything that can tilt the balance any way but dead on center because if it wobbled the fall was going to be far and hard. See it live and it all falls into place, one more listen and – CLICK – the penny, as they say, dropped. But I didn’t doubt Dulli for one second, you know?
Glorious: “Bonnie Brae” finishes, a slight shadow bounds onstage, impeccably dressed: STEVE MYERS! the one and only. Jerome to Dulli’s James Brown, now with his very own, very Steve, ensemble called the Mighty Fine (billing themselves as the Stooges meet the Temptations). Steve still has the voice and the moves and he compliments Greg as though it was yesterday they shared a stage together. We were applauding the now and the then; ain’t no one in that room gonna tell you they wouldn’t pay $100 to see the Whigs back together — except that Twilight Singers isn’t a paltry substitute and no one is showing up just to hear those songs again. What’s being served up here and now is — not just as good, but different, and better in another way. (Although to hear Greg introduce “Fountain and Fairfax” with, “I wrote this song 13 years ago to remind myself to stay out of trouble, I’m gonna sing it now to remind myself again” could be, perhaps, a little disturbing.)
For me, it was the combination of “Esta Noche” and four songs later – I could see the setlist all night and it didn’t make it any less glorious – the ecstatic cascade that is “Teenage Wristband” — the latter with twirling yellow lights that made me feel like a child spinning around until I got dizzy and fell down — that delivered, that gave me what I came for, what I needed. Standing front and center at Dulli’s microphone like the old days in Seattle, when I would sit on the edge of the stage and light Greg’s cigarettes with my Rolling Stones lighter — those days are over but these days are what they are, what they will be, still as ripe and full of promise. It doesn’t matter what Dulli does or what he calls it — I’m there.
Footnote: I know he’s been doing it every fucking night – and today with the 90 degree heat it was especially appropriate — but yes, I freaked the fuck out when he came out for the encore and said, “As your neighbor in New Jersey would say, ‘I’m On Fire’,” and then sang the first verse as an intro to “The Killer”. Dork with a capital D, that’s me.
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