The Gutter Twins, Great Northern
Avalon, April 2
It's raining in Los Angeles. Twice I slip on the slick Hollywood Walk of Fame in my terribly-unsuited-for-rain Chuck Taylors, trying to make my way to the Avalon. It's perfect though; it should be raining for a Gutter Twins show, even in L.A. It was raining when John Albert met up with Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli for his article on them in last week's LA Weekly.
(Mark Lanegan gets expressive. Photos by Timothy Norris)
The crowd's in various stages of damp, drying with drinks stronger and warmer than the usual bottles of Corona. My friend Ryan is drinking whiskey, which is certainly
the appropriate choice for an evening watching the raspy voiced pair of Dulli and Lanegan. "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets," Dulli says between songs, quoting Taxi Driver.
Dulli and Lanegan have put together a big band: Seven people playing keys, guitars and so on, and all that sound blends together well inside the Avalon, as do those two raspy survivors. The blend of voices works well on their album Saturnalia, and came across surprisingly well live. "Seven Stories Underground," the cover of the Massive Attack song "Live With Me," and "Front Street" are highlights.
A rendition of "St. James Infirmary" with an excellent guitar solo from David Rosser sounded magnificent and menacing. And speaking of dark, that's pretty much what they performed in. The first song looked normal, with green and blue spotlights, but after that it was lights out. Dim, burning, dark red and purple lights barely cut through to the figures on stage, Dulli moving from guitar to keyboards and back, while Lanegan barely moved a muscle under his black clothes.
Good as it sounded, and as responsive as the crowd was, that's all there was. The techs quickly took the stage and began setting up the mics and guitars for an encore, but a few minutes later the house lights came on, to the surprise of us all. I love Dulli's soul-song fueled encores, and even held out some hope they might reach back into their respective catalogs of shoulda-been hits, but obviously there was some discussion backstage that decided it wasn't going to happen tonight. Our loss.
All photos by Timothy Norris
The night's opening band, Great Northern, I'm happy to say, are every bit as good in front of 2,000 people in the Avalon as they are in front of 200 at the Echo. If anything, the big hall makes them sound better. They talked as if they've been touring around a lot and were glad to be back home for a bit. A couple of the songs tonight sounded like lost gems from 4AD's This Mortal Coil or His Name is Alive. Rachel Stolte's voice has no trouble competing with the swirling sonics of Solon Bixle. And though my friend Ryan claims the songs build and build but never explode, there's still plenty of hooks in there to ride the waves of the songs, no matter where they land.
So there's a bit of a stink going on about this lack of an encore last night. (Gotta log in to see the whole thread) Maybe it was the audience's fault for not giving enough of a hero's welcome? Come on...
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Couple of things: One, enough with the bashing of L.A. crowds. We get it. We're supposed to be lame. The amazing audiences in Bozeman, Montana rule and we're lame because of something... We work in the entertainment industry? I don't know what exactly, but Ok.
Two: Last night's crowd wasn't lame. Sorry, but the dude in front of me was singing along to almost every song and waving his arms, and air drumming. I met a guy who drove down after work from Santa Barbara to see the show (Hey Logan!) then drove right back and is at work now. He wasn't dancing in the aisles or screaming himself hoarse, but he dug the show, put in the miles and paid for the ticket.
Three: The band played in near total darkness. Lanegan never moved. And this music is not the same kind of energetic rock than Afghan Whigs or the Trees did way back when.
Finally: A lot (most?) of the people in the crowd were around for the Afghan Whigs and The Screaming Trees back in 1990. I was. We're older. We're a little wet. We worked all day. We just wanted to hear the tunes. But I'm also not blaming the band unless I hear 'em flat out state that they cut a show short because the crowd blew.