The Afghan Whigs reunion show at The Metro reminded all of us in attendance, that you can go back. Yes, sometimes you should go back. If I have one itsy bitsy complaint about the whole black tie affair, it's that they didn't go back far enough. I grew up with their groundbreaking second effort Congregation, and was hoping to hear some classics from that record. Maybe they didn't go that far back because they have grown, matured, and changed. When you bring a ten piece band on tour, backed by soul singers and horns, that old 3-chord grunge pop might not work so well.
For many years Dulli & Co hinted at a Motown sound, but seemed conflicted by the grunge gods within. They teased us with "Band of Gold, " and "Come See About Me," but it was hard to tell if this was just a phase? Now we can safely say that they have realized their true calling. Obviously after all those years of playing together they have become what they are. A leaner, meaner, soul machine. Enter the new Afghan Whigs.
Dressed to the nines in suits and ties, this reunited group of friends looked sprightly. This new fervor was reflected in the music, and they played a ton of it! Songs like "'66" sounded fresh, and there was a crispness in the instrumentation. The band was sharp, and each song gave birth to a feeling of hope. Dulli's vocals were the best they had been in years, and the back up singers soared behind him. Curli's bass lines bounced with a Weezy-like swagger, while Rick McCollum's leads pierced your soul and tugged at your heart strings, ala Jimi Hendrix. Yes, I went there. The guys were smiling and no matter what they played, they could do no wrong.
Most of the material came from their last three LP's, 1965, Black Love, and Gentlemen. It was all very cohesive, feeling like a puzzle being put back together after a long separation. The revamped song selection showcased a confident band. So much so, that their leader put down his ax, to prance about the stage with a young girl from the audience. After a quick dance with "Marissa," Dulli stepped off the stage and into the crowd. He sang from the floor while the rest of the group seemed content with keeping our attention on the stage.
"Wow," I thought. "How far had they come in the years since they split?" It seemed like a new beginning, a rebirth of sorts. Not only for the band, but for their fans as well. The music seemed to be given new life, that whole back catalog. I went home that night at 2am mind you, and pulled out every Afghan Whigs disc that I owned. I grabbed my Beats and jacked into my Sony Discman, falling asleep to the stirring sounds of "Citi Souleil." This was one of many songs that I had to go back and revisit. The Whigs sounded so good that I had a handful of songs I needed to hear after that show.
They played like an older, wiser, and deeper band. One that could bring the punk of "You Are My Flower," to the funk of "Neglekted," but "When We Two Parted / Over My Dead Body" was the probably one of the biggest surprises of the night and one of the coolest mash-ups I have heard a awhile. I'm a huge Drake fan, and at the emotional end of 'Parted" Dulli starts singing "I know, I know you don't love me, baby/They’re trying to take you away from me/Only over my dead body..." I looked at Jen and she said "Dude, that's that Drake song!" Holy shit; that's exactly what it was! It was that Drake song "Over My Dead Body." I love the fact that Greg Dulli is not afraid to bring a touch of rap into his repertoire, or incorporate the parts he loves. Frank Ocean's "Lovecrimes" reminded me of a page out of The Twilight Singers book. It had those killer keys, and those upbeat drums, it sounded like Dulli wrote it, and shined with new light.
The Afghan Whigs played near every song from Gentleman, including heartfelt versions of "Omerta," "The Slide Song," "Going To Town." Of course they brought the house down with that albums biggest single "Debonair." They continued the angst with gems from Black Love including "Blame, Etc," "My Enemy," "Double Day," and a beautiful version of "Faded." It was truly a glorious night. This show proved that The Afghan Whigs have nothing but future in front of them.
- Blame, etc.
- John the Baptist
- Uptown Again
- What Jail is Like
- Fountain and Fairfax
- When We Two Parted / Over My Dead Body (Drake cover)
- My Enemy
- You, my Flower / Sail to the Moon (Radiohead cover)
- See and Don't See (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
- Lovecrimes (Frank Ocean cover)
- Going to Town
- Citi Solei
- Little Darling (Thin Lizzy cover)
- The Vampire Lanois