Hot off the release of their debut album, Saturnalia, The Gutter Twins came to Chicago in style. It was cold Friday, very cold, and it started flurrying outside, where the line into The Metro went down Clark St. and wrapped around a corner. Fans in hoodies, wise ones in pea coats, and adventurers in only long sleeves shivered without spite as they shuffled towards the door for thirty minutes. Is that dedication or what?
Considering it was a late show, openers Great Northern came on just after midnight. From under a hoodie, vocalist Rachel Stolte slid over to her keyboard, looking more like a cast member of Northern Exposure than a successful, touring musician. The remainder of the Los Angeles band soon followed and they played a tight thirty minute set, comprised of songs off their 2007 debut, Trading Twilight for Daylight. Songs “Home” and particularly “Telling Lies” really fired up the crowd, whom were probably unfamiliar with the newfound indie band. That should change in the coming months because these Californians know how to write a clever melody and keep the ball rolling on stage. It was a shame they couldn’t play longer.
But really, everyone was waiting for the Twins…
The Metro’s pretty good at keeping time and tonight they didn’t slip. Within twenty minutes, the backing band for the Twins, which even included Jeff Klein on organ, sauntered out and threw on their respected equipment. It was when Mark Lanegan and the always smoking Greg Dulli came out that the crowd erupted with a claustrophobic applause. Opening track “The Stations” was the first casualty on a long set list of virtually unknown songs ripped off an album released only three days beforehand. I guess the audience singing and cheering must have been a fluke.
Lanegan, standing rigid and stoically at the microphone, seemed intimidated by the crowd. The typical recluse retained an authority over the band, chiming in when he wanted to, but never missing his cue for a chorus or a verse. There’s a sense of maturity in this distance from the audience that keeps him from coming off as an asshole, something that Dan Bejar (Destroyer) fails to do on stage with The New Pornographers. When he and Dulli rode through “All Misery/Flowers”, it was pure harmonic bliss and they brought a song to life.
The real highlight of the night came with the ever bluesy, yet epic (these are the guys behind The Twilight Singers, after all) masterwork of “Seven Stories Underground.” Dulli, behind a seatbelt guitar strap and still puffing out second hand smoke, paraded across the stage, exchanging a few glances with Klein before connecting with the audience for a short little rock out. Lanegan watched, his stare both ominous and self deprecating.
“It’s as hot in here as it’s cold out there,” Dulli shouted. Sweat was pouring out of his black button up and he continued wiping his face or going for water. This is, after all, his stage show as much as it is Lanegan’s, but Dulli seems to enjoy it more. He’s playful, energetic, and never seems to get too winded. In “Down the Line”, the band pummels through an exhilarating cover of the Jose Gonzalez tune. When both Lanegan and Dulli chant, “Don’t let the darkness eat you up”, the crowd followed suit, shortly thereafter.
After a couple more songs were nailed, including a chilling performance of “Front Street” featuring an exasperated Dulli, screaming, “We’re going to have some fun!”, the band said good night and headed off. “Five more,” someone screamed. People waited and for a good five minutes the band disappeared. I think everyone’s teeth glared when Dulli asked, “Okay, now you guys wanna hear some shit you know?”
For a bargain of seven songs, eight if you’re including the shorthand verse of Lanegan covering the Screaming Trees’ “Shadow of the Season, the band exceeded the average length of a typical encore. Some recent Twilight Singers’ material was played (a killer rendition of “I’m Ready”) and some older songs too (an excellent choice to close with “Blackberry Belle”). Two alternative legends came together and with distorted guitars and disheveled voices, carried the Chicago audience into the early, early morning.
It was a nice thing to hear Greg Dulli tell us he’ll be back this summer. Lollapalooza, anyone?
Live With Me
7 Stories Underground
Circle The Fringes
Down the Line
I Was in Love With You
Each to Each
Papillion-Shadow of the Season
No Easy Action