The Academy 3 is not the biggest of venues, and tonight it would be hard to call it full. The anticipation in those faithfully wearing their Afghan Whigs t-shirts is becoming more and more apparent, for there is only one man theyâ€™ve come to see â€“ Greg Dulli, former singer with the Whigs and now the leader of The Twilight Singers. Anyone who saw the Whigs live should be aware of the genuine rock star status that Dulli should by rights have bestowed upon him, and tonight is a chance to see if he has changed since the heady days of the mid 90â€™s when the dark gritty lyrics of 'Gentlemen' and 'Black Love' set him apart as one of alt-rockâ€™s true survivors of grunge.
As he and the band make their entrance he encourages the crowd to move forward â€“ â€œletâ€™s have a little basement partyâ€ he says. Recent album release 'Blackberry Belle' has a very laid back, almost trip hop feel, but it is clear that this band has not been assembled to re-create it note for note. The groove behind 'Esta Noche' is beefed up and the guitars prominent. The sheer volume of the PA is immense, the twin guitar attack deafening, the bass so loud it is hard to make out actual notes. Dulliâ€™s never perfect voice is strong tonight and he doesnâ€™t have to fight the volume to be heard. The raucous 'Teenage Wristband' with itâ€™s cascading piano runs and anthemic chorus is as close to Jim Steinman as you can get without becoming Meatloaf.
If anything shines through, itâ€™s Dulliâ€™s sheer love of music. He liberally quotes from the Beatles, John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, Abba and Prince and isnâ€™t afraid to throw in the odd Afghan Whigs moment either. Putting down Placebo for an awful Kate Bush cover he states â€œthis is how it should be doneâ€ and launches into a cover of 'Cloudbusting' that makes Metallica sound like Starsailor. Such is the power of the excellent band (special mention must go to drummer Bobby MacIntyre here) that the songs from Blackberry Belle are given a new lease of life. The opening lines of 'Martin Eden' sum it all up â€œBlack out the windows, itâ€™s party timeâ€. Meanwhile, songs from the first album 'Twilight As Played By..' sound fresh as ever.
Gigs like this happen rarely and itâ€™s a pleasure when you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Everyone leaves with huge smiles, their ears ringing, the residue of seemingly hundreds of cigarettes smoked by the band and glorious memories of glitter balls falling from the ceiling (but thatâ€™s a story best left ).
Photos by Paul Stevenson