Looking Up At The Stars

An Evening With Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan – The Academy, Dublin

Let the man who took a flash photograph of Greg Dulli during One Hundred Days burn in the fiery depths for all eternity. Not just for being rude and inconsiderate to a man who was giving everything us he had on that stage, but also because he seems to have been singularly responsible for cutting our encore short. As Dulli very directly warned that there was to be no more flash photography for the remainder of the gig, it was clear he had soured on the idea of continuing to play, and thus, after one final song, goodnights were said, and that was that. Camera-Boy is an utter cad.

What came before all of that, however, was utter perfection. I’ve seen Mark and Greg (and guitarist Dave Rosser) performing together under various guises a few times before, and although they were wonderful shows, each time, I felt they were struggling to be heard above the mix. Tonight, though, in a stripped down acoustic show, it was all about their voices, and what voices they are. Dulli’s, cracking and soaring at different times; Lanegan’s alternately sonorously deep and straining for high notes. With the bombast and volume of a regular rock show gone, the personality and dynamics of the songs were pushed to the fore, within the fairly tiny walls of the Academy.

Kicking off with a flurry of Gutter Twins material, things got interesting almost immediately – as the modified riff in God’s Children drew the song to a close, Lanegan took lead vocals for the first time to throw in a solitary verse of All Along The Watchtower. His slow drawl of “I can’t get no relief” provided a theme to the rest of the night, in some ways, as the songs moved between sheer desperation and glorious redemption with commendable subtlety. Highlights came quick and fast from there: We Have Met Before, with Dulli hammering out notes on a keyboard, became almost religious (and Dulli looked remarkably like Lucifer himself beneath the red stage lights, an embodiment of temptation to Lanegan’s tortured pleas); Resurrection Song, where Lanegan, visibly engaged with the music, rose into his less-renowned higher register to wonderful effect, again playing off Dulli’s counterpoint in a call and response chorus. The Twilite Kid offered a much-needed reprieve, its (relatively) unrestrained optimism culminating in a coda of all three men on stage repeating “hold on”. A special moment for me was The Lure Would Prove Too Much, as my girlfriend and I adopted it as “our song” back in 2007, and as far as I know, this was only its second live outing.

One thing this show had in spades was atmosphere – towards the start, in between songs, you could hear… well… nothing. The crowd, having sufficiently applauded the last song, quietened down to the point where the low hum of the PA was all that remained. Dulli, at this time still loving the crowd, told us with a knowing grin that we had in fact all missed the first four songs, and that they were great – and they wouldn’t be playing them again. At one point, as Lanegan leaned in to whisper something to Dulli, someone shouted out “Give him a kiss!” Amused, Dulli asked what was going on, to which Lanegan answered “We just kissed, apparently.” Dulli told us we should have seen what they had been doing backstage before the show. Someone shouted out a request for Sneakers (a joyful kids’ song Lanegan recorded, which had also been called for in Glasgow the night before), and Dulli wondered if it was going to be a running theme for the tour. “Not for me, it’s not,” Lanegan coolly replied.

More requests were made: Dulli would gladly play My Curse, but “the dude over here refused to learn it.” Why, Mr. Lanegan? “Too many words.” Dulli informed us that Lanegan wouldn’t even play Dollar Bill, which was met with a round of playful boos, so to compensate, Dulli told us he’d be happy to play it, or any other Screaming Trees song, after the show. “I’ll busk it.” After a little more playful banter, Dulli looked at Lanegan, and Lanegan calmly leaned into the microphone, and with the entire room at his fingertips, growled “Let’s just get it done.” It was the most playful I’ve ever seen Lanegan – or indeed, heard of him being – and it was genuinely brilliant to see that this really is just a group of friends playing music together, keeping each other safe and happy.

The general quietness of this show did allow for some spectacular exceptions. After the gentle harmonies of Kimiko’s Dream House, Dulli let loose with the old Afghan Whigs favourite, Summer’s Kiss. Two more subdued numbers later (the beautifully peaceful Sunrise, and unreleased Gutter Twins song – I think – Sunset Machine), and they kicked into a rollicking country cover, I Am In The Heavenly Way, with Dulli taking the opportunity to show off his somewhat limited skills on the harmonica.

After a very short intermission, Dulli and Rosser (who, despite being on-stage with two giants of alternative music, was a very big and active part of the show, allowing for some nice three-part harmonies) re-emerged. It was at this point things started to go downhill for artist-crowd relations. As Dulli leaned into the keyboard to start Candy Cane Crawl, some people insisted on conversing. Loudly. About the lack of Lanegan.

“Hey, are you guys done talking? Cos you can finish your conversation if you want. Or kissing, or whatever. You can do that out in the lobby. If you do that during my song, I’m gonna do this (opens his water bottle and rests it on the edge of the keyboard) and tip the entire thing over, and it’ll hit you in the f***ing head, okay? Go on, go out into the lobby, I’ll call you when Bubbles gets back on-stage.”

Okay, the Bubbles remark was absolutely hilarious, but you could tell Dulli was more than a little ticked. If it affected his performance of Candy Cane, however, it was for the better – while I never quite warmed to it on the Powder Burns album, it was utterly majestic here. Starting off slow and quiet, building into a powerful, violent crescendo, Dulli’s voice rising above the melee, Rosser’s plaintive backing vocals keeping it from boiling over into OTT-territory. It was one of those moments that you could never really capture on DVD or CD – it was about being in the room, the music washing over you, and echoing around you, and sharing in the awe-struck, jaw-dropping wonder that Dulli’s passion so effortlessly inspired.

Unfortunately, after Dulli called Lanegan back out to sing One Hundred Days (which was magnificent), Camera-Boy insisted on taking a photo with flash on during the chorus. Dulli threw a death-glare over in his general direction, and after the song had finished, he calmly but sternly stated his distaste for the rudeness. “You tell him, Dulli!” shouted a fan. “Shut up,” Dulli shot back. Oh dear.

A delicate version of All I Have To Do Is Dream, perhaps a nod to Dulli’s earlier referral to the Gutter Twins as “the satanic Everly Brothers”, closed the concert out. Despite the unpleasantness at the end, it was, by all accounts, an incredible evening. Despite the only instruments on stage being acoustic guitars and a keyboard, it never sounded samey, nor did it drift into the dreaded “singer-songwriter” sound. There’s a whole other think-piece to be gleaned from the difference between artists like the Gutter Twins doing an acoustic show and your average acoustic guitar-wielding songsmith doing something similar: suffice to say, the one key element separating them is attention to dynamics and drama. Lanegan and Dulli took us on journeys – rather than sharing their diaries and troubles with us, they shared a catharsis, inviting the crowd to witness the exorcising power music has over the personal demons their songs were borne of.

Ooh – and after the gig, I managed to get Dave Rosser’s autograph and thank him for an amazing performance, although in doing so, I appeared to be interrupting a reunion with an old friend. Whoops.

That really is Dave Rosser's signature
That really is Dave Rosser’s signature

ATTENTION: Setlist

The Body
God’s Children
The Stations
We Have Met Before
Creeping Coastline of Lights
Resurrection Song
The Twilite Kid
The Lure Would Prove Too Much
Kimiko’s Dream House
Summer’s Kiss
Sunrise
Sunset Machine
I Am In The Heavenly Way
________________

Candy Cane Crawl
One Hundred Days
All I Have To Do Is Dream

These videos come courtesy of Ed Purcell. Thanks kindly, sir.

The Stations

Kimiko’s Dream House

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6 Responses to Looking Up At The Stars

  1. Paul says:

    I wonder if either from the “reunion” you admittedly interrupted wish you’d “burn in the fiery depths for all eternity” … It’s doubtful; I’m sure they’re both rational adults and realize you made an innocent mistake… Your negativity is a drag.

  2. Ed Purcell says:

    Fantastic Review! Great gig. And like you said,it was just a pity about stupid flash guy! At least when i recorded,all i recorded audio only,without distracting the guys. I see you like my recording of The Stations. I’m after adding Kimiko’s Dream House if you’re interested?

  3. Mister Hands says:

    Paul: My negativity at Camera-Boy is based on the many, many signs around the Academy that expressly forbade flash photography, and Camera-Boy’s immediate rush to hide his camera after the flash went off. He knew what he was doing, and it wasn’t an innocent mistake. If a little exaggerated exasperation from a huge Lanegan and Dulli fan after the show comes his way, I don’t think it’s completely unwarranted, to be honest. I don’t actually want him to go to Hell, you understand. I don’t even believe in it. 😉

    Ed: Cheers! Yeah, I’d LOVE to have Kimiko’s Dream House – and I’ll make sure to give you credit in the post. Awesome sound quality on The Stations!

  4. Ed Purcell says:

    I’ve managed to get my hands on video of Greg complaining to the two people talkin. I’ve put it up on youtube with the other videos.

  5. Mister Hands says:

    http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIyHsSVLmdA

    Hehe… Dulli’s smooth even when he’s threatening to injure people. Thanks again for the videos.

    Also, for anyone who’s interested, here’s the soundboard boot of their recent Belgian gig: http://www.megaupload.com/nl/?d=GI4BITVC

  6. Pingback: I Go Retro: Twilight… As Played By The Twilight Singers « Mister Hands

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