It’s a rainy Sunday All Hallows Eve-Eve as I write this. It’s the perfect backdrop to edit together a few clips of Dwight Twilleys’ set at The Starline in Oakland this past Tuesday (Oct 25, 2016). Perfect as the music he played was mostly dreary acoustic renditions of mostly unknown more recent songs of his. This was both a treat and a bit of a misstep.
He’s been recording and releasing music steadily since the early 70’s and after a long and mostly unsuccessful stint in LA he returned to his hometown of Tulsa where he built a studio and became a fully independent recording artist who has continued to record and release albums to this day.
I got turned on to Twilley by Gary Sperrazza in the early 90’s (he was an early champion of DTB) and wrote about him in the early-mid 70’s. When I first heard that voice, that delicate balance of melody harmony, big-hook riffs and the power and dynamics behind it, I was instantly hooked!
So, it was a rare and wonderful treat to hear that voice in person after being a fan for 20 years, never thinking I’d see him live, but the choice of material was a bit lackluster considering the amount of material he has to choose from. I don’t think he really considered his stuff suited to the acoustic format, so it seems as if he really held back as to not under-serve those songs which were crafted in the studio and built up of layer upon layer of guitars and vocal textures. I beg to differ, I think certain songs like ‘You Were So Warm’ ‘I’m Losing You’ ‘Just Like the Sun’ or ‘Sincerely’ all off the first record…’That I Remember’ ‘Sleeping’ off of the second lp ‘Twilley Don’t Mind’ or even something like ‘Out of My Hands’ from ‘Twilley’ (3rd LP) with the brilliant lyric “When the Walls Around You Melt You Can’t Pretend”… would have made for killer moments in an acoustic format.
The only song he played from that period during the acoustic set was ‘Three Persons’ one of the poppier songs from ‘Sincerely’ which is actually better suited for a band in my opinion.
The other thing that sort of killed the energy level was that he talked quite a bit in between songs. He had us in the palm of his hand with his opener (the first song in the ‘acoustic’ vid below. I don’t know that song or what it was called but it captured both the strength and delicateness of his voice and had that beautiful darkness that pervades a lot of his music. He could have gone right into anything after that but decided to regale us with tales of Ye Olden Days of the industry…running around with Phil Seymour, chasing Hollywood excess and all the stuff that I’d love to read in his bio but in all honesty, just cliche Rock and Roll LA excess done better by others and not why we love Dwight. It was actually cool at first to hear about this but it just got a bit (lot) long (he went on for 7-8 minutes) and then he went into another lesser known mid-slow tempo song about his adventures with Phil called ‘Good Things Come Hard’ (also in the Acoustic vid below). He then talked for another 5 minutes and as soon as he was finally ready to lay another song on us his mic went out! This minor technical difficulty chewed up another precious couple of minutes after which he played yet another lesser known song from 1999’s lp ‘Tulsa’ called ‘A Little Less Love’ then another short story 3-4 minutes this time and another slow tempo song. At this point he’s played 4 songs and we were almost 40 minutes in! It was a small crowd of old fans and a very forgiving one for sure.
After another 7 minutes of story telling he breaks out the first ‘hit’ from one of the early albums, the aforementioned ‘Three Persons’ from the first album ‘Sincerely’ which was at least something people knew but far from the best choice from that gem of an album.
10 more minutes of talking this time and then another slow tempo piece…
His 7th and final song of the main set was an uptempo number with a driving beat and would have been a good one to throw in earlier on to break up the slow tempo that dominated the set. This last song is the third song in the acoustic vid below. I apologize in advance for some of the washed out video.
He finished and left the stage after a long and rambling trip down memory lane accompanied by a handful of songs. After a healthy applause his wife, engineer and Tour Manager Jan Twilley who essentially helped him get his career back in his own control after wallowing in obscurity in LA for years, led a chant for ‘I’m on Fire’ as an encore. Dwight got back up on stage with the opening band to back him up on a pretty solid rendition of that very song from his first LP ‘Sincerely’.
He brought out some old promo posters of ‘Sincerely’ that sat in a box for 40 years and was really cool about hanging out and signing everything.
I picked up his release from last year ‘Always’ on his label ‘Big Oak’ and I’m really enjoying it. I had him sign that for me. I also really liked his 2010 release on Burger/Big Oak ‘Twilley’. That was the first I’d heard he was back and recording, though he had been for awhile and that’s a testament to the way he was treated by the industry. His recent recordings are as rich and warm and as hook-y as anything he’s ever done and I even wonder if a few of these songs have been around in some form for as long or if he’s just mastered his tried and true formula.
Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed by the evening as a whole but really glad I went. It was a special evening for the old die hard fan but I would have been bummed had I brought someone to this show to turn them on to this legend of a musician and songwriter. That being said, he seems to have enough left in him to return and have another go at it, he still has that magic and with a proper band and a more focused delivery. he would easily slay…
Until then, let’s enjoy this video with Dwight and Phil Seymour joined by Tom Petty on bass (though he actually played some guitar on the album)