This review appears in Wireless Bollinger.
The neon lights on the Webster Hall marquee were inexplicably turned off. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it: it was dark and dank, with rain lashing down. But whatever the reason, it provided the ideal space for an evening of condensed darkness.
Los Angeles quartet Great Northern opened on a stage flooded with crimson light. Their dream pop-inflected songs landed heavily in the dramatic lighting, but the band’s dual vocals carried their melodies upward. Keyboardist Rachel Stolte shared singing duties with guitarist Solon Bixler, their voices rough, but melodic. The set began with slow, cyclical inevitability, gaining velocity as the band progressed through each song. ‘Home’ was the apex, as the band pierced the instrumental drone with an anthemic chorus and guitar pyrotechnics. But naturally, such heights couldn’t be sustained indefinitely, and the group descended in the latter part of their set, settling into a languid, but comforting, groove.
MP3: Great Northern - Home
MySpace: Great Northern
Official Site: Great Northern
The mood only deepened when the Gutter Twins assumed the stage (following an intermission that included a bass-heavy playing of the Knife’s "Heartbeats"). Although there was a sizeable backing band, all eyes were on the duo of Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan. They were a study of contrasts. The ebullient, if no-nonsense, Dulli greeted the crowd theatrically, while Lanegan gripped his microphone stand stoically, speaking only once to introduce his partner. But musically, both were on the same wavelength, recreating their recently released album, Saturnalia, in all its morose glory. "Idle Hands" was a raucous highlight, and surprisingly melodic, despite the guitar assault.
But with such deep back catalogues – Dulli with the Afghan Whigs and the Twlight Singers, Lanegan with Screaming Trees – they didn’t just content themselves with album material. The two borrowed from nocturnal masters Massive Attack, covering "Live with Me," its heartbreak substituted for something more mournful. Dulli would later trade his guitar for a keyboard, singing Jose Gonzalez’s "Down the Line," a vastly different construct from the Swedish string-plucker’s original creation. The most immediate change was speed, and Dulli urged the crowd to clap along to the frantic beat. And lyrics were seldom more appropriate: “Don’t let the darkness eat you up!”
In ways, it was a throwback to the duo’s heyday. With complete disregard for New York City smoking laws, the band – with the exception of Lanegan – puffed away onstage, tossing exhausted butts onto the stage floor. More often than not, a spark played between Dulli’s fingers, even as he strummed. The encore break was also somewhat old school, as Dulli returned onstage alone. He reminisced about when crowds weren’t automatically given an encore, and with some effort managed to get the audience to a respectable level of noise.
Ultimately, it was a show with few surprises. Even for the newcomer, Dulli and Lanegan have established personas that become apparent quickly. However, their longevity is a testament to their continued creativity, and there’s something to be said for familiarity.
Here's a set of covers they did, dating way back November 9th, 2005. It was recorded at Villaggio Globale in Rome. Check out music is art for some more songs and enjoy!
1. Front Street
2. I'm On My Way (Mahalia Jackson)
3. Dollar Bill (Screaming Trees)
4. Strange Fruit (Billie Holliday)
5. What Jail Is Like (The Afghan Whigs)
6. Papillon (The Twilight Singers)
7. Autopilot (Queens of the Stone Age)
8. Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Leadbelly)
Entire Set: Mediafire
MySpace: The Gutter Twins
Official Site: The Gutter Twins