Live Review: The Gutter Twins at The Roxy, July 10, 2008

(Photo by Sam Holden)

If only one thing could be said about former Afghan Whigs’ front man/current Twilight Singers’ front man/current Gutter Twins’ co-front man Greg Dulli, it’s that he’s consistently inconsistent.

Dulli – who’s made a career out of mining the darker side of the heart’s needs in the tiny hours — ranges from brilliant songwriter and producer to drunken mess with alarming regularity. To be certain, it requires a lot of a Dulli fan to remain committed to the man’s vision, particularly in a live setting, where frequent sloppiness abounds.

The Gutter Twins – the much-ballyhooed musical marriage of Dulli and former Screaming Trees front man/solo artist/Isobel Campbell (of Belle & Sebastian) collaborator Mark Lanegan — released their long-awaited album Saturnalia earlier this year to wide praise. Unfortunately, the live rendition of the Dulli/Lanegan equation has been found wanting – a generally stilted and meandering affair lacking the chemistry that’s made Saturnalia a repeat player and half-year best-of list contender as well as both the machismo these artists have proffered in the past.

Thursday night at the Roxy, however, Dulli, Lanegan and company managed to get it right. Going straight for the throat, they banged into their single “Idle Hands” with all the subtlety of sledgehammer and didn’t bother pausing for breath before following up with a top-shelf Twilight Singers’ number, “Bonnie Brae.” Such was the tone of the night. Rather than jerk off the audience with moody atmospherics, The Gutter Twins at long last delivered a show that rocked, and in doing so, treated both their material and the audience with sincerity.

As with most single-release artists, the shallow catalog of The Gutter Twins has made them rely on covers and material from their other careers to make a headlining set work. The difference this time was that it was their songs rather than the oddities that shone throughout. While set-list regulars “Live With Me” (a Massive Attack cover) and Lanegan’s “Methamphetamine Blues” blistered and moaned, it was their own “The Stations,” “God’s Children,” and “Seven Stories Underground” that made the show. Even the commonly bland “Bette Noir” – which sounds too much like Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” to be taken seriously – was welcome this night. Closing the set with a sexed-up version of “Front Street,” The Gutter Twins could have left the stage and not returned, as they did at the Avalon a few months ago. Instead, Dulli, who insisted earlier in the night he had “legs” and was “ready to play,” reappeared, beaming ear-to-ear as he led the way through “Papillon” for the start of their encore.

Hopefully, whatever stride The Gutter Twins seem to have found will remain with them for the duration. A little consistency – of this sort, anyway – would serve them well.

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