Published Mar 23, 2016"Who the fuck is Greg Dulli?"
The question was emblazoned on the single T-shirt hung at the merchandise table at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret on Tuesday night (March 22). Dulli — the frontman for alternative rock bands the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers, and one-half of the Gutter Twins — is well-known for his brooding vocals and soul-crushing songwriting, strengths that took centre stage on this stop of his current tour, a stripped down solo run billed as An Evening with Greg Dulli. The tour, which has enjoyed stops at smaller venues including churches and synagogues, has found Dulli leading his band (comprised of fellow Whigs, violinist-cellist Rick Nelson and guitarist Dave Rosser) through a selection of songs that span his lengthy career.
Before things began, the stagehand informed the crowd of two rules: no flash photography and no cell phone distractions. "Enjoy the music here, not through your phone." Stepping around the array of instruments scattered about the stage that they would rotate through, Dulli and his band strapped in to cheers and applause. Reaching far back to the Whigs' 1993 major label debut, Gentlemen, they broke into "If I Were Going," washing the room in contemplative ambience as Dulli worked his acoustic guitar against Rosser's sharp electric and the grand tones of Nelson's cello.
Dulli's voice, booming on "Too Tough to Die" and beautifully heart-wrenching on "The Lure Would Prove Too Much," lulled the crowd into a daze that they'd later momentarily snap out of to dance to the rock stomp of "Teenage Wristband." He lightly scolded an audience member for breaking one of the evening's two rules — using the flash on his camera — to which the patron apologized and Dulli accepted before teasingly shouting, "I quit!"
Not restricting himself to his own compositions, Dulli channelled Marvin Gaye on "Please Stay (Once You Go Away) and referenced the Beatles on "Forty Dollars" with a crowd-pleasing "she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah." His commanding version of traditional folk song "Black Is The Colour (Of My True Love's Hair)" was a highlight of the night, with Leonard Cohen's "Paper Thin Hotel," which brought him to the keyboards, following close behind.
For the encore, Dulli returned to the keys and crooned over hazy pangs on "Candy Cane Crawl," getting up from his seat and picking up his acoustic to end the evening on a spirited note with "Summer's Kiss." To a wild ovation, he grinned at the room, having painted a fairly thorough portrait of just who the fuck Greg Dulli is.