Remember the ’90s? I do. Rather vividly. So I was plenty excited to see Greg Dulli and Craig Wedren, two former frontmen who may have stepped away from their bands (Afghan Whigs, Shudder To Think) but never stopped being awesome, play a joint solo tour, right here in the year of our lord 2010.
I went with our intern Katie, a young music lover who can tell you all you want to know about Best Coast and Wavves, but had never heard of Wedren or Dulli before. If you were born 15 years earlier, I kept thinking, these guys would probably have been your heroes. (Read Katie’s take on the concert here.)
Craig Wedren may have performed solo, but he didn’t come alone. Like a mad amalgamation of Brian Wilson and the RZA, he sampled and looped his voice at every opportunity, piling on armies of ghostly harmonies in an impressive feat of musical ingenuity. From the first track, “Fall In” off his upcoming solo album, he had the audience in the palm of his hands. His demented melodies, frazzled chords and fragmented imagery may have been over some people’s heads, but no one was complaining. At one point, Wedren sang over a looped guitar riff which he tossed off in seconds, then gesticulated with his arms as if to say “look ma, no hands!”
Everything Wedren did seemed like it might have been done on the fly. “That was… I’m not going to apologize,” he said, after one song had ended, an impish grin stuck on his face. “This is night one. At the end of the tour, that song’s gonna sound like fucking Prince!” He closed his set with “Foil,” a math-rocky ear worm I recognized from an old mix tape I used to own. Good times.
Greg Dulli makes music to smoke cigarettes to. Dark, brooding, ostensibly bad for you. Flanked by a guitarist and a cellist, he recreated the Whigs’ and Twilight Singers’ atmospherics with just two acoustics and a cello. Dressed in his trademark black, Dulli’s whiskey-soaked croon sounded as strong as ever, as he delivered his minor chord meditations on black love and loose women. “I wrote this song 19 years ago,” he said, introducing Congregation’s “Let Me Lie To You” (“Someone must have told you, someone must control you, before you can get free.”)
He also cajoled the crowd into getting on his wavelength. “We can sit on stools and make this a library-type show. But I want it to be like we’re playing… Nashville Gardens, or something.”
Dulli, now sober, was a funny frontman all night.
“That’s how you know you’re not famous,” he quipped after playing “Forty Dollars,” which features the familiar refrain “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah.” “When you steal two fucking Beatles songs, and they still don’t sue you.”
His cello-fied cover of Bjork’s “Hyperballad” was well received, as were the songs he previewed from the just finished Twilight Singers record, due next year. Dulli sat down at the piano for an unrehearsed “Crazy,” to which he added a snippet of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” At one point, Craig Wedren joined the crowd and stood right next to me, prompting me to reflect upon my so called life. God bless the ’90s.