Twilight Singers, Webster Hall, 5-13-11
One of the things I have always loved and appreciated about Greg Dulli is that he’s not ashamed to be a frontman. The word “showmanship” isn’t anathema to him. When he is on stage, he is ON STAGE. So on a night when he’s filming the show for what I can only assume is commercial release, he’s going to turn it all the way up, hard. I’ve seen him do this with the Afghan Whigs, I’ve seen him do it with the Twilight Singers – even on the solo tour or with Lanegan on the Gutter Twins tour, Dulli is a like a magician the way he can grab the energy, flip it around, find it if it’s hiding, beg for it if he has to, demand it if it’s not meeting his needs, cajole it out from a shy crowd.
It was clear from the minute the band walked onto the stage that their energy was off the charts. The first four songs – “Last Night In Town,” “Blackbird and the Fox,” “I’m Ready” and “Forty Dollars” felt like you were being steamrolled. The sound was perfect. The band was tight. The energy was just absolutely insane. I’ve seen a freakish amount of Dulli project shows and this has to be in my top five. I don’t mean to insult other performances, because I’ve never seen Greg phone it in, but last night was just something other.
Everyone was in a great mood. Dulli smiled the entire time – hell, everyone smiled the entire time. The band is – I would say ‘just short of perfect’ but they’re perfect for Greg. Dave Roesser is a guitar wizard, Scott Ford was reminding me of Entwistle last night with his solidness and fluidity, and Greg Wieczorec on drums is absolutely what Dulli needs. He’s an amazingly physical drummer, but incredibly focused.
There were reports that he had been covering “Main Street” (yes, Bob Seger) in Europe (and I could go into a long post about different Bob Seger songs I’d rather see him cover) but instead tonight we were graced with Tom Petty – in the middle of “Too Tough To Die,” Greg comes to the edge of the stage and off-mic, begins:
It’s all right if you love me
It’s all right if you don’t
I’m not afraid of you running away
Honey, I’ve got the feeling you won’t
There is no sense in pretending
Your eyes give you away
Something inside you is feeling like I do
We said all there is to say
Greg took it all the way into the chorus, a capella the whole time. It was one of those moments where I’m singing a song I know by heart but I cannot in that instant place what song it is. The giveaway here was that my long-suffering boyfriend, who has now seen Greg 5 times because of me, was suddenly singing every word loudly. And I’m thinking, “Seriously? He knows a Dulli song by heart?” and then in the next line I was all – “Oh, wait, Tom Petty.”
And then he came barreling back into the song, which was the uncontested highlight of the night. (Also in that running: “Candy Cane Crawl,” the best I’ve ever seen it, and “King Only” which rarely impacts me at all.) It felt like 12 people in the entire venue knew the song, which is deplorable, but not surprising, I guess: gone are the days that Greg can talk Ted Nugent and find a dozen guys who grew up listening to the same stuff he did.
Another highlight of the night was the visual backdrop, cycling through a series of photographs that whoever mans the @twilitekid account on Twitter posts every couple of days. It definitely added to the performance without becoming a distraction; the shot of Jerry Lee Lewis with his 13-year-old wife told me what the next song was before Dulli’s hands touched the keys for “The Killer”.
At the end of the night, as the final chords of “Esta Noche” rang out, Greg put down his guitar, faced the audience, and raised both arms in the air, his smile enormous and finally, relaxed. He didn’t need our applause to know he’d knocked this one out of the park this time, but he soaked in the applause for a second or two before leaving the stage, letting the band play him off.
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