Put simply, the gig was fucking extraordinary. Well, it was once Jeff Klein, the support act, was done. Another singer-songwriter dressed in a cheap suit, with a guitar and a whole stack of stories about how he’s been hard done by. The problem is, it was almost totally soulless. Technically he’s quite good, but there just wasn’t enough to keep my interest.
Keeping my interest really wasn’t a problem in the slightest for the headline act. Both Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan are, how do we put this…survivors. Their previous bands criminally never broke through to mass appeal, with Dulli’s The Afghan Whigs soulful, sleaze-fueled grunge failing to break through the glass ceiling of “cult act”, and Lanegan’s Screaming Trees psychedelic rock making perhaps the best rock album of the nineties (Dust) but still not getting the recognition they deserved.
Has much changed? Well, with Dulli, no. The current band, as with the ‘Whigs, is still really an extension of his ego, and as such he is still swaggering, drinking, smoking, and of course ever the ladies man, giving attention to the ladies in the front row.
What about the music? Well, although to start with The Twilight Singers always struck me as a rather more restrained project, nowadays a lot of the material is uptempo, soul-infused rock. Of the new songs – Bonnie Brae, I’m Ready and the closing Forty Dollars are all brilliant, as is the older Esta Noche. Never a man afraid to cover songs, his version of David Holmes and Martina Topley-Bird’s Too Tough To Die is simply brilliant, Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire sweeps into The Killer in the encore…and we even got some old Afghan Whig’s stuff, too, with a storming version of 66, and a brooding Crime Scene Part One.
As for Mark Lanegan…he has the look of a man that has seen all that is bad in life. He quietly appears onstage halfway through the set, for a short set with the band, and then joins again for most of the encore. I think the closest comparison now is to perhaps dub him the new “man in black”, with his warm, whiskey-and-cigarette-wracked voice, and the tales of redemption that he has always woven through his songs.
He was also responsible for the one truly spellbinding moment of the night, where his first song suddenly ended and morphed into his spine-chilling version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night?. Not far behind this was his part of the encore, including a glorious Wedding Dress and the rock-out of Sideways In Reverse. Oh, and the closing song? Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair, with both of them sharing the vocals. Utterly, utterly exquisite.
In a year that so far has provided countless fabulous moments of live music, this really did top them all. And not a bad way to start a weekend of live music (although admittedly the rest will be rather different to this!)…