Afghan Whigs at Metro | Photos and review
There are a few different kinds of reunions. There is, of course, the cynical cash grab. Then there’s the reunion that pretty much picks up where a band left off, or the reunion that offers a chance to see a band that few people were able to see the first time around. But then there are reunions that exist pretty much as if to say, yes, we really were that good, and that’s where you’ll find the Afghan Whigs slotted, at least for now.
The band clearly knows it, too. In fact, watching the Whigs plow through over two hours at the Metro late Saturday night, it was hard to believe it’d been over a decade since this group last regularly roamed the land, bar a couple of dozen recent shows. It was harder to believe that some folks thought, back then, that the Whigs were somehow breaking up off-peak. Sure, many consider 1993’s Gentlemen the Afghan Whigs’ masterpiece, and they may be right, but as the band’s Saturday set demonstrated—as did its memorable then-final tour back in the ‘late 90s—the Whigs’ subsequent Black Love and swan song 1965 were more than worthy successors, and indeed it was material from those albums that helped pushed Saturday’s shows to its formidable heights.
It certainly helped that singer Greg Dulli’s work with the Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins has helped keep his voice in such good shape, but it was more surprising how easily he was able to rechannel the equally charming and lascivious persona that made him such a divisive yet undeniably compelling frontman. “You can wonder what I was thinking about your girlfriend when I was making these songs,” he taunted, introducing a block of music from Gentlemen. “It's all good, I guarantee it,” he added with a smile, which was not terribly assuring.
With key bandmates Rick McCollum and John Curley at his sides, bolstered by players borrowed from the Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins on drums, extra guitar and keys/violin, and occasionally abetted by three backup singers and a horn section that swelled the group up to 12 members, Dulli raged and crooned, leered and seduced. He snuck in bits of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen,” of Drake and Curtis Mayfield. He waded into the crowd to sing the band’s cover of Marie Lyons’ “See or Don’t See,” and, in keeping with the Whigs ahead of its time embrace of R&B, Dulli and the group easily subsumed Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes” into its soaring, sleazy vision. His evil charisma was so irresistibly magnetic that he even had the crowd singing along to the twisted transmutation of the Beatles’ “She Loves You” he snuck into the end of the epic “Omerta/The Vampire Lanois.”
“Fellas, does she love you?” Yeah yeah yeah, the guys in the crowd answered back in unison. “And ladies, do you love him?” Yeah yeah yeah, came the dutiful response
“Well, if you don’t love him … ” sneered Duli, pausing dramatically as he unsheathed his rhetorical knife. “Then meet me backstage!”
Staggering out onto the street in the early hours of Sunday morning, it would take no small degree of dishonesty to leave thinking the Afghan Whigs anything less than one of the greatest live acts on the planet. But for those somehow still able to muster the gumption to resist after watching its swaggering mojo at work, ask yourself this question: Who do you really think could follow that?
1. Blame, etc.
2. John the Baptist
3. Uptown Again
4. What Jail is Like
5. Fountain and Fairfax
6. When We Two Parted
9. My Enemy
10. You, my Flower
11. See and Don't See (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
12. Lovecrimes (Frank Ocean cover)
13. Going to Town
14. Citi Solei
18. Little Darling (Thin Lizzy Cover)
19. Omerta/The Vampire Lanois