Timing Is Everything - Twilight Singers at the Paradise, May 29
Most of the time, I have the most God-awful timing. Not yesterday.
Let me start off by saying that I carry huge admiration for great songwriters. Some people admire doctors, great philosophers, authors, and all of them are surely noble. But I find that nothing moves me emotionally like a good song. Songs that make the hair on your arms stand up, or send a shiver down your spine, or put a lump in your throat. Sure, a great lyricist alone is to be admired, as is a great composer, but the synergy of when the lyrics and music mesh to form an awe-inspiring song is so rare, so noteworthy, that it really makes me feel alive.
That's why I really admire great songwriters. And I have a long list of those I think are great. Way too many to list here, but let's just say that the lead singer/guitarist for the band we saw last night at the Paradise is way up there on my list.
With us both having the day off, Xteen and I decided to spend a good chunk of the day in Boston before the show. As usual, we left a little later than I was hoping (this, after Xteen wondering if we should bother bringing the camera to which I said, "You never know who you are going to run into") and we made it to one of our favorite watering holes for some overpriced beer and tasty spinach and artichoke dip. The ambience at this joint makes the overpriced beer completely worth it. Not to mention, they have 100 different beers from all over the world available for consumption. If you desire, you can ask them for a card that has a list of all of the beers. When you drink them all, you get your own special mug inscribed with the name of a dead author of your choice: "The Dead Author's Club". The kindly bartender yesterday provided us with a list of the mugs already taken. It was cool to see who was chosen and despite the fact that many of our choices for our own mug (had we decided to try and join the Dead Author's Club) had been taken (George Orwell, Douglas Adams, Poe, songwriter Elliott Smith), one, C.S. Lewis, was noticeably absent. Maybe one of these days Xteen and I will fill out one of those cards.
So, we probably stay at this joint a little longer than we wanted to and then head toward the venue. The plan was to park near the gig, walk to a restaurant for some dinner, and then head back. We ended up getting an outstanding spot, pretty much right in front of the Paradise. But then a friend of Xteen's called from California and we spent some time in the car while she talked to her. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out how to receive photos on my new cell phone (I still can't figure the damn thing out). We get to the restaurant and couldn't decide on what to eat or drink right away. This place has a thousand different beers and a million different menu items. We finally settled and, while the food came pretty quick, the waiter was pretty slow in getting us our check. Doors at the venue opened at 7 and we left the Sunset at around 7:15 for the 10 minute walk to the venue.
You're probably saying to yourself, "Jeesum Crow, Dim, this post is already torturously long! You haven't even gotten to the review of the show yet and you are bogging me down with minutia about leaving late and a lazy waiter. Why??"
Well, I thought it important for you to know all of the little things that had to happen in the course of our day yesterday that caused us to be walking toward the venue at the precise time we did. Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Boston, and usually people are always milling around the Paradise, waiting for the show, but the crowd was very late-arriving, probably out enjoying the weather. So, it was pretty sparse outside the venue when Xteen and I approached it. And then, what to our wondering eyes did appear...but Greg Dulli, lead singer/guitar player/songwriter extraordinaire of the Twilight Singers.
He was leaving the venue to head back to the bus unabated, or so he thought, when Xteen and I approached him. I had some trepidation, since I heard that for all of the bravado Dulli has on stage, he's kind of a quietly intimidating guy off it. I heard that after shows, he pretty much bee-lines right to the bus and really doesn't like all the smiley gladhanding that goes along with any post-gig festivities.
So, to a bit of our surprise, Dulli was such a great guy and took a few minutes to talk to us and take pictures. Xteen spoke to him first, I think, something along the lines of "never would have expected to run into you out here" to which Dulli cavalierly replied, "Well, I had to pee!"
I gushed that he was one of my favorite songwriters ever and Xteen levied praise all over one of the discs put out by Dulli's prior band, the Afghan Whigs. Now, all of the Whigs' stuff is absolutely aces ("Up In It", "Congregation", "Black Love", "1965"), but "Gentlemen" is one of those desert island discs for me. I have well over 1,000 discs in my collection and if you told me I could only pick 5 and the rest would be destroyed, the achingly disturbing swirl of "Gentlemen" would be one of the illustrious five. Without hesitation. Even Xteen, who usually isn't one for fanboyish behavior had the Marcia Brady meets Davy Jones stars in the eyes thing around Dulli.
I complimented him on his awesome new disc, Powder Burns, to which he coyly replied, "They are all my little babies". I also gave Dulli shit because the last time he was in town in 2004, the Red Sox were breathing their death rattle to the Yankees in the ALCS. Dulli, a Cincinnati native and INSANE Reds fan, took great delight in yet another Red Sox collapse. Only thing was...they came back to win the Series. I reminded Dulli of this and, of course, he tempered my enthusiasm by mentioning that he was glad the Sox won that series since it made him a lot of money and then he rubbed in that the Reds have won more Series in his lifetime than the Sox have won in mine. That Dulli can be a real asshole sometimes.
We sheepishly asked for pictures and he graciously obliged. Even giving Christine a "Of course, darlin'" when she asked. And instead of me getting all bent out of shape about Dulli making moves on my best girl, I just kept thinking two things: "Good Lord this guy is fucking SMOOTH." and "I wish he called ME darlin'". Well, not really.
We thanked him and he went back in the bus while Xteen and I entered the venue with our jaws still on the floor.
I'll keep the review section short since you are all probably grey-haired already from reading this novel.
The place was pretty empty when we walked in, so we set up camp right at the foot of the stage. Austin, Texas singer/songwriter Jeff Klein was up first and I felt bad as he only played to about 20 people. But he had a remarkable presence and his solo delivery, complemented by various guitar loops and effects, was pretty striking. His Texas drawl was rough around the edges, but perfect for the lovelorn tales he was spinning. He was pretty impressive.
Then, next up was a band from Milan, Italy who absolutely blew me the frig away. They're called Afterhours and man, did they rock. One of the guitar players also played electric violin and the keyboard player busted out a saxophone on occasion. Can't wait to pick up their CD, though I fear that it won't be able to touch their live show. Quite honestly, these guys were one of the best opening acts I ever saw. Is it me, or does the lead singer look a little like Trent Reznor in this pic?
Finally, the Twilight Singers came on. Dulli, in all of his swaggering glory, bellowing rock-infused R&B, was the showman of showmen. A commanding presence on the stage, from the second he stepped out, the audience was his. Flanking him was his amazingly tight band, Dave Ross on guitar (who looked just like Alton Brown with a short blonde mohawk), Scott Ford on bass, Bobby McIntyre (who would give Animal from the Muppet Show a run for his money) on drums, and the lead singer of Afterhours, Manuel, who also doubled as Dulli's keyboard player.
With now four brilliant Twilight Singers discs under his belt ("Twilight", "Blackberry Belle", a cover album "She Loves You" and the recently released "Powder Burns"), Dulli left the Whigs stuff behind and focused on this band's material and that was just fine with me.
Occasionally switching off to piano, Dulli's usual cigarette-ravaged voice was more powerful (and on-key!) than ever. Passionate and aggressive, yet sometimes soft and vulnerable, Dulli spun tales of love and addiction and everything in between. High points were many and neverending, but some of the more notable tunes were "Esta Noche", the Martina Topley-Bird cover "Too Tough To Die", "Martin Eden", "Teenage Wristband", and practically everything played from the excellent "Powder Burns". So, go NOW and check out the amazing Whigs and Twilight Singers!
Only one three-song encore as the setlist here says they should have played "Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair" as the final song, but maybe curfew didn't allow it. Honestly, I could have heard them play for another hour, but I'm not sure Dulli could have held up that long. There are few performers out there that pour themselves into a show. By the end, Dulli was spent, the crowd was energized, and I remembered exactly why I so admire fantastic songwriters.
You know, sometimes my timing absolutely friggin' ROCKS.
I'm a fanboy. I admit it.