Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blondes vs. Twins

Once again I've had the opportunity to go to two shows near eachother, with two completely different bands. First of all I went to the highly expected "Blonde Redhead" show at Pumpehuset last Thursday and then Yesterday to another show filled with expectations, namely "The Gutter Twins". Let me just try to tell a bit what I think, and maybe spice it with a bit of background.


First show was a show with the NY act Blonde Redhead. A band that I have enjoyed a lot on record. Specially their two last albums:
  • Misery is a butterfly, which is a beautiful masterpiece, very artistic and minimalistic, filled with excellent compositions that you cannot really can't find a match for. In my opinion a very unique sound.
  • 23. A more "traditional" album, that lends a whole lot from the shoegaze scene. I've already mentioned this earlier in my post further down about "Reinvention of Shoegaze". I love this album as well, specially the opening song which is as taken and delivered as a direct follow up to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
With these two albums pretty present in memory I went to the show along with Peter and Jonas from LNV, expecting a really good show with excellent music.

Arrived at the scene just 20 minutes before show start and got a good spot up front, to see the music up close.

I had thought a bit about how they would pull their sound off, when playing live. Specially on the new album "23" there's lots of layers, double vocals, many guitars, samples and all that.
So it wasnt a surprise for me to see that one of the musicians in the show was in fact a sampler/sequencer that could help them out in the passages where layering was needed.
After all, they are only 3 persons in the band (essentially bass, guitar, drums.. Sometimes guitar, guitar, drums and sometimes piano, guitar, drums).

The show started off really good. The 1 girl and the 2 guys had lots of nerve and looked like they wanted to play, but as the show progressed I was kind of surprised how much of the "Live" concert actually was playback or to put it nicely "sequenced"... All sorts of stuff was sequenced.

I'm used to hear drums, some percussion, some samples, some keys sequenced here and there, but one thing that is not sequenced that often is vocals. There were heavy use of vocal sequencing here, to back it all up.

So what's the point in playing live when you just "playback". Well it's not entirely playback, they did play guitar, bass, nord, drums, vocals and the bottom line is that even though, I did have the feeling "Come on, bring some musicians then" I was really entertained and loved the songs they played and in the end had the feeling "Please play more".

So I guess even though it felt a bit like they cheated I think it was a good show, cause they played a lot of songs from the two latest album which is the sound of Blonde Redhead i prefer.

That said, I think it would be more cool if they actually played some more stuff themselves, for example by adding 1 or 2 extra musicians for the live thing. Maybe I'm old-school, but just think that live should be more "live".

Try take a look at this video for "23"

And then this Live version of "23"

What do you think ? I guess I think both are great :-) so what if there's some excessive sequencing :-)

Then take a look at this

Messenger - Live (from Misery is a butterfly album, a really great song)


The Gutter Twins has quite a history behind them even though - by name - it's a new band.

Essentially as I see it (and there will probably be people disagreeing :-) ), The Gutter Twins is a band that is existing around frontmand: Greg Dulli that essentially has made the band out of his other band The Twilight Singers which essentially was made out of the band Afghan Whigs. Greg Dulli is the engine, he's the one that writes the songs, there really is a red thread all the way from 1991 Afghan Whigs debut : Up In It up til the recent release of The Gutter Twins : Saturnalia.

Fact is, that even though - in my opinion - The Gutter Twins, Twilight Singers and Afghan Whigs is painted by Greg Dulli - it's really just as much the presence of Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens Of The Stone Age) that makes up the image of The Gutter Twins.

It just have to be no secret that I've never really been into neither Screaming Trees or QOTSA. I do think Mark has a fabulous voice, but never found the music that interesting.

This is quite opposite to my addiction to Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers.

What Afghan Whigs had back in 1991 was the sound of the black sheep of grunge. There was all those Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, Soundgarden etc.. all evolving around rock as basic ingredient, then fuzzed and punked up.

This is where Afghan Whigs really were the originals and the outsiders, cause they took way more inspiration in Soul music. An inspiritation that evolved a lot on the excellent Afghan Whigs records released from time to time. For every record put out there, everything became even more soul oriented, but still with the rock, punk, grunge flavour of noisy guitars and off course Greg Dulli's intense voice.

To just give you an idea what I'm talking about, try looking at these to Tubes :

My Curse - Live Bootleg ( This is a very good example of the soul sound, where even Greg Dulli had to back out and let a woman sing it instead, a cool song )

My Enemy - Live Bootleg

It was a hard pill to swallow when they broke, but when Dulli arrived with The Twilight Singers it was pure relief. A new sound more mellow, even more electronic and quiet was found on the debut album of The Twilight Singers.

Here's one by Twilight Singers.

King Only - Live Bootleg (from their first album)

From there it went more traditional again, with rock as basic ingredient, and leaving the soul a bit behind. A couple of nice records, some songs with Mark Lanegan, and now ended up in Saturnalia. To me, that album sounds as a natural addition to The Twilight Singers repertoire, with Lanegan added off course. But that's not so weird, cause Lanegan was almost full member of Twilight Singers in the late days.

It' a long journey from the first times I saw Afghan Whigs live at different venues in Copenhagen, till now where I was going to see them live at Vega at exactly the same stage where I saw Afghan Whigs on their 1965 tour. That show was epic, with an alive Greg Dulli that really knew how to entertain. So with that as unreasonable expectation Peter (the drummer from LNV) and myself went off to see the show.

The show was the first after a short break in The Gutter Twins tour, due to Greg Dulli had to visit the hospital because he had a "Hypothermia" incident :-) . So I guess it might have been due to that, they had a somewhat slow start, that seemed a bit vague, not really putting any charisma outside of the stage.

But as the show progressed, Dulli, kind of woke up, and started doing what he is good at: Entertaining. And that he did. Dulli is good at getting people going, and he did put his voice out to the brim that night.

As for communication, it also seemed like there was a good chemistry between exactly Dulli and the rest of the band. But there was almost non-existing communication between Dulli and Lanegan. I found that kind of weird. But maybe it's the Lanegan style. Lanegan did not move one inch from the show started till it ended, and the only words he spoke was introducing Greg Dulli. I guess his style is, being a crooner, put both hands on the mike stand, close his eyes and sing, that was pretty much what he did.

He did sing very very good, and specially when the two: Dulli+Lanegan sang together it lifted the roof, what a good mix. Lanegans deep voice and then Dulli's raw and more high pitch voice on top. Excellent.

But where Dulli entertained and had communication both with the band and the audience, Lanegan was more a statue. It didnt mean so much to me, cause Dulli worked on it instead, but a bit more contact wouldnt kill him.

The Gutter Twins delivered a good show, had really good sound, used a bit of sequencer :-) but played the thing LIVE! . as opposed to Blonde Redhead.

Take a look at this Live Bootleg, it's pretty much as it was yesterday.

All Misery/Flowers (One of my favourites from the Saturnalia album)

I know this is really hard to decide upon, two shows with pretty different bands, with very different backgrounds. Which was best ?? . This is really hard to decide upon, but in the end i think I actually enjoyed the Blonde Redhead show the most. Yeah they sequenced themselves through the show, but two factors is making it win the "competition". For one i think they were better on stage doing what they do, than the whole of Gutter Twins were. Gutter Twins we're pretty much Greg Dulli, and you didn't really notice the rest.
The other factor is that I just like Blonde Redheads music better than Gutter Twins, making it a bit unfair off course. In the end, two fine shows, none of them to the skies, but worth the money.

Resources : The Afghan Whigs, The Gutter Twins, Queens Of The Stone Age, Screaming Trees, Twilight Singers , Blonde Redhead

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