Twilight Singers at The Clubhouse Music Venue

Twilight Singers
Clubhouse Music Venue
Saturday, May 28

Earlier this year, Sub Pop released Dynamite Steps, the latest album from Greg Dulli and The Twilight Singers. The record is typically Dulli: dark, funky, and with soul inflections wedged between big rock guitars, electronic ambiance, and thumping rhythms. The record is tied only with Destroyer's Kaputt as my "late night" album of the year.

Heading into the show, I couldn't decide if I felt weird about The Twilight Singers being listed as "ex-Afghan Whigs" on some promotional material I'd seen. I understand the need for the reference point. The Whigs were a great band, and clearly established the template Dulli continues to follow with the Singers, but the Whigs have been officially dead for ten years, and in that time, the Dulli has released five excellent records with the Singers, one with Mark Lanegan as The Gutter Twins, and a solo album.

At this point, it feels fair to let the Whigs reference go. Dulli has clearly kept up artistically, and judging by the crowd last night, Whigs fans don't need to be reminded what he used to do. They've been on board the whole time.  

Dulli looked fit in a black shirt, strolling on to the stage with guitar in hand. Though he's long cultivated the somewhat dismissive tag "barroom poet," Dulli has been performing sober as of late. I can't make the comparison between last night and what a drunk Dulli set is like, but it's hard to imagine alcohol helping Dulli sustain his voice, something that actually improved over the band's hour + set, seemingly warming up with each "ooh baby" and scream.

The Twilight Singers have a tendency to lean toward the epic; every song sounds like it could be the last. The band opened with "Last Night in Town," which opens the new album, but sounds like a closer most bands would kill for.

"Come what may, come what might," Dulli sang.

"I believe it's Memorial Day Weekend. Y'all didn't vote that holiday down, too, did you?" Dulli joked with the crowd, pointing back to our state's Martin Luther King Day controversy.

Dulli alternated between piano and guitar, joined by an especially tight band. Guitarist Dave Rosser worked the wah wah pedal, and drummer Greg Wieczorek, from Scottsdale, according to Dulli's introduction, was a fantastic player, effortlessly shifting the rhythms around Dulli's seedy lyrics. 

"I'm going to sing a song about what happens when you try and break a mother fucker's heart," Dulli said, and the band tore into "She Was Stolen."

The band borrowed liberally from other artists as the night went on. Dulli sang a bit of "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" as he sat at the piano, and interpolated a bit of "You Give Me Fever" into Martina Topley-Bird's "Too Tough To Die." John Coltrane's "Love Supreme" was mixed with Marvin Gaye's "Please Stay" -- all songs included on She Loves You, the excellent covers album Twilight Singers released in 2004. 

The band even borrowed from The Beatles, recasting "All You Need is Love" in a minor key, segueing into "Love" from Twilight as Played By The Twilight Singers, into "Annie Mae."

With almost no stop, the band ripped into "Candy Cane Crawl" and "Never Seen No Devil," before Dulli shouted goodnight and the band finished their set with "On the Corner," a pre-recorded drum loop leading into some more fine work from Wieczorek, driving home lyrics like "Spread your legs/insert your alibi." The song is everything great about The Twilight Singers at once -- dark, yeah, but surging with a redemptive quality, served with an almost arena-rock grandeur.

There seemed little doubt the band would do an encore -- hard not to see it coming when the tech comes out and tunes the guitars. The band rocked a few more tunes, closing with the badass "Gunshots" from Dynamite Steps.

Despite the insistence of a fella I met at the bar, the band did not come back out for a second encore. He told me a story about seeing the band in Cincinnati, and how Dulli didn't return for an encore, only to emerge in his pajamas later. "He's sober now," my new friend said. "He isn't a dick, anymore. Well, I mean, he's probably still a dick, but, you know."

I do know. And it's why the songs are so good.

Critics Notebook

Last Night: Twilight Singers at The Clubhouse

The Crowd: Fans of '90s rock and current indie.

Overheard: "Dulli looks younger the longer they play." -- my friend Mike

Personal Bias: Records by The Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers have soundtracked many late nights of mine.

Random Notebook Dump: "Maybe this is the last song?"

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.