It’s fair to say Greg Dulli recognises the irony of his request, ‘let there be light,’ when taking to the Academy stage…
Because everything about tonight’s show – and make no mistake, this is a spectacle – is pitched firmly around darkness.
From the formal attire to the demonic blues songsmithery to the great white shark-alike eyes unflinching in Mark Lanagan‘s head, blackness is the order of the evening. And like, Henry Ford’s T-model automobile, fans can have any type of song they like – so long as it’s black.
So whether it be the angular thrust of opener The Stations which seems ready-made as Albert Pierrepoint‘s come-to-the-gallows theme tune, or the Arabian sizzler God’s Children which finds Greg Wieczorek decorating his kit with firecrackers as the Twins howl, ‘strange the way you seem suicidal, you don’t live at all… it’s all in the dark, as you walk through the fire,’ the dial is firmly set to bleak.
And yet there’s much to thrill. Chiefly the way this odd duo, Dulli the former Afghan Whig and recovering coke addict and Lanagan, the ex-Screaming Trees leader, sometime QotSA man and full-time gear-head, are polar opposites in their pursuit of entertainment.
Where Dulli is slightly bloated (Joe Johnson anyone?) and overly excitable, waltzing round the stage like a pantomime villain on Each to Each or leathering his guitar with gusto on the proto-metal of Idle Hands, Lanagan is anything but.
Zombie-framed, rooted to the spot, throttling his mic stand like the Boston Strangler, and muttering nothing for the entire performance, save for ‘and this is Greg Dulli,’ (seemingly through gritted teeth) as his partner introduces the rest of the band.
It’s pure theatre, and in a bizarre twist, the music is somewhat secondary to the show. Not that the music is anything but fascinating, what with Jeff Klein in particular, dazzling with some extra handy fret work.
But it’s the poisonous chemistry between the two frontmen which proves extra special; All Hands/Misery a perfect example as Dulli’s strained, pained vocal which neatly layers beneath Lanagan’s
gravel rubble-encrusted tones.
Funnily enough it’s on the slower grooves, as Dulli takes to the electric piano, in which Lanagan exudes an ounce of emotion as he screws his eyes shut, seemingly lost in the abyss, as he rocks back and forth and his head snakes from side to side, sucking his cheeks deep into his skull.
Undeniable highlight is Front St. as Dulli serenades the crowd, mounting the rails and peering over the crowd while Lanagan stands motionless, seemingly indifferent yet exuding cool, as the guitars and orchestral electrics reach a shuddering deathly black silence. Just the way they like it.