words & photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
That so many of the characters in Greg Dulli's songs are met by misfortune (often self-inflicted) and find themselves in questionable circumstances, it was fitting that he and his Twilight Singers rolled into New York City on a Friday the 13th. Though anyone expecting something to go wrong during their feverish 21-song set were left disappointed.
"It's my birthday... three days later," Dulli joked at one point, but the entire 90-minute set seemed like a party. Nobody was having more fun than Dulli, who with this year's Dynamite Steps has released as many records as a Twilight Singer/solo artist as he did fronting the Afghan Whigs.
Early on, before a punishing version of "Bonnie Brae" (made popular by its inclusion in the television show "Rescue Me"), he accepted flowers from a fan in the front row, stepped to the mic and said, "You sure know how to make a man feel like Neil Diamond."
His voice was expectedly and delightfully off-key and his band sounded great, especially drummer Greg Wieczorek, "the best drummer I've ever seen," said Dulli during his band introductions. Erik Kang of openers Margot & the Nuclear So and So's (more on them in a second) came out to play pedal steel and violin later in the set.
As thunderstorms, porn theaters and other ominous images appeared on the screen behind them, set highlights included "Teenage Wristband", the cover of Martin Topley-Bird's "Too Tough To Die" and "On the Corner", "The Beginning of the End" and "Get Lucky" all from Dynamite Steps.
"Ladies and gentleman, The Killer," Dulli proclaimed, as a photo of that song's protagonist, Jerry Lee Lewis, and 13-year-old wife (and first cousin once removed) Myra Gale Brown loomed on the screen. It was the first song of a three-song encore and "The Killer" grooved and wailed better than anything else they played that night. Dulli closed with a ramped up version of "Esta Noche" ("This is the motherfucking finish line") that ended in a refrain of Carl Carlton's "Everlasting Love."
Margot and the Nukes' opening slot for the Twilight Singers made a lot of sense considering that bandleader Richard Edwards' songs traffic in a milder, Dulli-esque world of bruised and mis-handled relationships, but armed with Rachel's review of a show from last fall, I approached their set with trepidation. Then something happened when I got to the venue - I didn't care about any of that stuff. Bands shed and add members all the time and you either stick with them or you don't and I was just excited to see a band that I've adored since The Dust of Retreat. Sure, like a lot of people I'm nostalgic for the old version of Margot and (having seen them four times previous) missed seeing some familiar faces who were germane to a pretty great live show. But the version that recorded last year's Buzzard needed to be taken for the band it is now.
Ultimately, where the earlier Margot was more a chamber pop collective - this retooled lineup is a solid, straightforward rock band. "If you want to stay/Shut up. If you want to go/Get lost," Edwards snarled on Margot's set opener, the excellent "Claws Off" And then later in the song, "get lost" becomes "get fucked." But there are some lovely melodies in the earlier material, which was showcased on the stripped down version of "Broadripple Is Burning" complete with audience members singing along. There's still plenty of common ground to be found in their live show for fans of both incarnations.
The Twilight Singers and Margot are still on tour. A list of all upcoming TS dates, more pictures and the setlist from the Webster Hall show, and a video of the band playing Letterman in April too, below...
Margot and the Nuclear So So's
The Twilight Singers - On The Corner - on Letterman
The Twilight Singers --- 2011 Tour Dates
May 21 Wonder Ballroom Portland OR
May 22 Showbox Seattle WA
May 24 The Fillmore San Francisco CA
May 25 The Music Box Los Angeles CA
May 27 Belly Up San Diego CA
May 28 The Clubhouse Phoenix AZ
May 30 Granada Theatre Dallas TX
May 31 The Parish Austin TX
June 1 Warehouse Live Studio Houston TX
June 3 Tipitina's New Orleans LA
June 25 Glastonbury Festival Glastonbury UK