The Gutter Twins @ York Theatre, Sydney (23/07/2009)


So much of rock music is about collaboration – individual’s talents finding the perfect collaborators to elevate and inspire their own work into something great. Even certified geniuses like Morrisey and Marr have not quite reached the same peaks without their creative partners. Consider it a blessing then, that Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan crossed paths, for their dark alchemy makes them seem nothing less than musical soulmates. As The Gutter Twins they have produced career-best in the twilight of already distinguished careers.

The setting was the intimate surrounds of York Theatre, more usually a venue for staged drama than that of the musical variety. With the twins (and Twilight Singers guitarist Dave Rosser ) draped in black and performing in acoustic mode, the sense of occasion was heightened and the audience hushed and respectful. It was spectacular from the start, with God’s Children setting an ominous mood early, conjuring up all sorts of darkness to complement its impressionist, barely-there lyrics: “Whispers…captured lies”.

Never known as a particularly jovial frontman during his time with the Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli was nonetheless in relaxed form tonight, breaking his near-silence to banter with an audience member at one point and leading the crowd in handclaps during a powerful cover of Jose Gonzelez’ Down The Line. The cover proved a perfect choice for the pair, who pick up on the tune’s foreboding, its underlying sense of unease and violence and run with it.

Mark Lanegan, meanwhile, is nothing less than a force of nature. His voice seems not just weathered or aged, but absolutely timeless, so deep and dark it seems to have risen out of some primordial sludge. Few voices in rock are so richly evocative and to hear him sing Creeping Coastlines of Light, a lovely torch song from his solo record, was to know greatness.

It takes artists with real gravitas to take on material like The Stations, with its visions of the rapture and overwhelming emotional heaviness. But there’s something about Dulli and Lanegan’s combination that makes their explorations of sin and redemption positively inviting, even addictive.

With only the sublime Saturnalia record to their name, and some of its best moments ( Idle Hands, All Misery/Flowers ) apparently unable to be replicated in acoustic form, the twins range widely through covers and their back catalogue. Dulli’s raw take on the Afghan Whigs’ classic Summer’s Kiss is absolutely heart-stopping, while maybe the most magical moment of all comes in during the sublime harmonies on Everly Brother’s perfectly melancholy All I Have To Do Is Dream. If you weren’t there, you really missed out. If you were, you’re probably still in a reverie.