It was very hot. It was incredibly loud. The audience were stood on some sort of lovely patio.
These are special nights when Greg Dulli brings his Twilight Singers into town. Not just because of longterm comedy injuries sustained by this scribbler whilst drunkenly walking a very long way home in the wrong direction and pouring rain whilst drunk after an especially brilliant set, and in this case not just because of the quality stone floorwork.
The reason that these nights are special is because they are uniformly excellent shows. A Twilight Singers show involves everyone present to the extent that it is impossible not to feel part of the performance, and of the songs themselves. Whether one is right at the front or loitering about at the back, everyone plays a part and our reward is a head full of stars to brighten up those dark little corners of the soul.
It started out with the support act the Bookhouse Boys, whose Twin Peaks-inspired name is a winner before the first incredibly noisy note is played. Hard to describe them with any degree of accuracy, although Southern Gothic spookiness with metallic overtones and two trumpets seems to cover the main bases.
And then onto the main act.
Sparsely-lit as always (aside from one white emergency light that couldn’t be switched off, it was half a dozen red bulbs for most of the evening), the Twilight Singers pulled their usual rabbit out of the hat by making sure that if we couldn’t see them then too well we could certainly hear them.
And hear them we could. Openers Last Night in Town and Fat City bounced off the low ceiling and around the room with murderous intent, the latter being a particularly good example of how Greg Dulli’s ensemble can take their recorded output from whatever original level of subtlety and volume they were intended for, and absolutely crank it up for the delight of audience and participant alike.
Possibly the most amazing thing about this set was its sheer intensity – fifteen songs taken from all the Twilight Singers’ back-catalogue, performed at full pelt and full volume, delivered in one hour. To say that this time felt a lot longer is not a slight on the band in any way; it’s a sign of astonishment that so much was crammed into such short a time. New songs such as Gunshots, Waves (the joyously noisiest thing of the night) and On The Corner fitting in perfectly with old favourites such as Bonnie Brae, The Killer, Annie Mae and a riotous Forty Dollars, all punctuated by Greg indicating “up” noises to the soundman between each song.
A welcome addition to the live sound was provided by multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson (previously seen on records from the Polyphonic Spree and My Jerusalem), whose violin was occasionally lost in the sonic chaos, but gave an extra layer of beauty in particular to the end of Bonnie Brae. Elsewhere, bassist Scott Ford played through pretty much the whole show with a massive smile, drummer Greg Wieczorec bounced along ceaselessly as if his whole body was playing along, and guitarist Dave Rosser’s backing vocals were right on the money, especially (and surprisingly) when he backed Greg on Blackbird and the Fox and matched Ani DiFranco’s recorded original note for note.
Much is made of the Twilight Singers’ very deep soulsearching on record, but onstage the songs are flipped to proivide a different sort of catharsis; physical rather than emotional, joyful rather than pensive, congregational rather than confessional. This was put into full effect during the encore, beginning with Esta Noche and ending with Teenage Wristband, a song that closed the evening perfectly.
I still have a high-pitched “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in my ears as I type this. It’s a reminder of a brilliant evening in a not-that-great venue once again watching one of the best live bands I’ve seen put in another perfect shift. It was a bit on the banter-free side from mainman and ringleader Greg Dulli (who looked like he was having a great old time of it, and whose vocals have never sounded better), but less chat for more songs is a fair tradeoff tonight.
Last Night in Town
Too Tough to Die
She Was Stolen
Candy Cane Crawl
Never Seen No Devil
On the Corner
Dead to Rights
Blackbird and the Fox