The Twilight Singers w/Jeff Klein and the Stars of Track and Field
By
J. Gordon
11/5/2006 11:07:47 PM

Halloween night: the night when the spirits rise up and mingle with the living. The night when tricks are played for treats. Well, St. Louis’ Mississippi Nights must have forgotten the date because the only trick they played was starting The Twilight Singers show with a fantastic opening treat.

And that’s where we suck: We missed the first act, Jeff Klein. That said, we were told that Klein had sound problems, soon said ‘fuck it’—and then turned it all around by sitting down to do a drop-dead acoustic performance that left everyone with their jaws on the floor for a standing ovation. Damnit! We’ll catch him next time. In the meantime, you can hear him on www.myspace.com/jeffklein.

Next up were Stars of Track and Field, a consummate indie trio that does everything right and sounds great—except somehow they lost our attention. This is the kind of band that makes you feel guilty: you can’t put your finger on what it is that’s not doing it for you, because it all makes sense and the talent is obviously there. Still, they lack something that might have simply been variety as many of their songs sounded the same. Their closing number stirred things up, however, and lent a sudden burst of energy and life to the room that had been getting increasingly mellow and trancy until that time.

But the band everyone was there to see was The Twilight Singers, featuring Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs and Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees. Can one possibly go wrong with the key members of two of the most prominent alternative fringe bands from the 90s? Of course not.

The sound of The Twilight Singers is basic rock; a little messed up and rough so we don’t forget their indie roots, with dips into jazz and more than a smattering of old Motown soul. If The Twilight Singers needed a metaphor, it’d be a beat up Cadillac convertible with a drunk driver, gunning it to Vegas with a hundred dollars and a broken heart. The confessional, powerful lyrics of these songs are what set The Twilight Singers apart from so many bands today. As front and center showman, Greg Dulli milks his stardom to the hilt and it gets a little cheesy at times, playing the schtick up in a way that is reminiscent of Bruce Willis in his ill-fated rock and roll phase. Did he really just say, “Play it pretty for St. Louis”? Fuck. He did. Well, just try to forget that part because the music is so much better than the stage banter and bullshit.

The now clean-and-sober Dulli shows some road wear, both physically and in his gargled-with-ground-glass voice, but he somehow makes it work for him. “I’ve never seen a fat man score more chicks after a show,” I heard one of his acquaintances say afterward. And you can believe it. What the guy lacks in beauty, he’s got in confidence by the boatload. The band sounded tight as well, with a Kirkwood, MO. guy (didn’t catch his name) switching between keyboards and guitar, and Jeff Klein back onstage with guitar.

The greatest moments of the show, however, were when guest-frontman, Mark Lanegan, took the helm. Here is a man whose voice is as smooth and powerful as almost fifteen years ago, when he seduced the world with the Screaming Trees’ only radio hit, “Nearly Lost You.” He’s a lot prettier these days too, now that we can see him in short hair. It’s a damned shame he didn’t stay on stage more often, as his songs give the Twilight Singers a classier, dreamier vibe, especially on tunes like the Massive Attack cover, “Live with Me.”

A perpetual fog of smoke rose from the band’s chain-smoked cigarettes, not fog machines, as The Twilight Singers slunk, rambled and boomed their in-trouble-but-feelin’ good vibe to the packed floor—this mostly over-21 crowd were out of their seats primarily because the band asked permission for them to be able to bring their drinks down. But drink or no drink, this Halloween, Dulli was certainly full of spirit, and The Twilight Singers’ musical tricks were quite the treat to anyone alive enough to move their feet.

 

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