It was just after midnight when it all came into focus, when the air of forcedness finally slipped off the shoulders of Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, two of modern rock's most intriguing and often tormented frontmen, the former best known for his work with soul-loving alt-rockers the Afghan Whigs and the latter from essential grunge act Screaming Trees. Two songs deep into the encore of their first-ever U.S. show, the duo now known as the Gutter Twins managed to shake off the awkwardness of their two-headed stage stewardship, their tobacco-torched vocals finally coalescing in a healthy, harmonious marriage.
Problem was, it wasn't on one of the new tunes from their forthcoming Sub Pop debut, Saturnalia (out March 4), but on "Papillon," culled from Dulli's 2003 Twilight Singers effort, Blackberry Belle. For added awesomeness, the Twins even rounded out "Papillon" with a sneaky tease of "Shadow of the Season," the scorching opener of Screaming Trees' classic, Sweet Oblivion. And while the momentum carried into the set-closing Gutter Twins original "I Was in Love With You," the best moments of the band's live debut arrived on older material recorded in separate confines, particularly the rousing Lanegan solo track, "Methamphetamine Blues."
Earlier, the pair wowed with yet another non-Gutter Twins track, this time turning folkie crooner Jose Gonzalez's "Down the Line" into a slow-building dirge that unraveled into a stirring blues romp. Equally noteworthy was the duo's cover of Massive Attack's "Live With Me," which they recorded under Dulli's Twilight Singers brand in 2006. Of the new material, though, "Idle Hands" (download an MP3 from Sub Pop) proved most memorable as a dirty, Afghan Whigs-style R&B inversion.
And while Lanegan seemed a bit petrified, never once letting go of his mic stand, he told us before the show that he had no opening night jitters. "We're professionals," he mumbled. Good to know, but as their world tour plugs along, they'll need to start clocking in before midnight.
Gutter Twins setlist:
"All Misery/Flowers" / "God's Children" / "The Body" / "Live With Me" (Massive Attack cover) / "Seven Stories Underground" / "The Stations" / "Idle Hands" / "Circle the Fringes" / "Bete Noire" / "Down the Line" (Jose Gonzalez cover) / "Who Will Lead Us Now" / "Each to Each" / "Front Street"
Encore: "River Rise" (Mark Lanegan solo track) / "Papillon" (Twilight Singers) / "No Easy Action" (Mark Lanegan solo track) / "King Only" (Twilight Singers) / "Methamphetamine Blues" (Mark Lanegan solo track) / "I Was in Love With You"