WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Mike Breen 10.16.2012
Posted In: Music Commentary, Local Music at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)
 
 
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The Afghan Whigs Are My Co-Pilots

The Afghan Whigs' music hit me hard in my 20s and hasn't left me since

The music of one of Cincinnati’s all-time greatest musical exports, The Afghan Whigs, hit me at precisely the right time.  As a child, the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who tattooed itself on to my DNA, while my high school years found me becoming obsessed with College Rock, Punk, Hip Hop and Hard Rock.  But The Afghan Whigs were my “coming-of-age” soundtrack — from (approximately) the ages of 20-27 — and, like those childhood musical heroes, their music has never left me.  Those years were pivotal in my growth as a human being. In that brief span, I was a raging alcoholic, a one-step-from-the-gutter junkie and a newlywed — at least for a few years all at once — with a handful of relationships that played themselves out painfully woven in between, followed by the “light” that comes with sobriety and clarity. I can’t remember exactly the first time I heard The Afghan Whigs. I knew of them right after high school by seeing their names on fliers for shows at bars I wasn’t old enough to get into. But once I finally got my hands on the band’s debut for SubPop, Up In It, in 1990, I was hooked. While the music on Up In It still gives me a jolt every time I listen, the songs (save “You My Flower”) never became as emotionally resonant as 1992’s Congregation, 1993’s Gentlemen and 1996’s Black Love would prove to be for me.  The sound of the Whigs’ music was the perfect transition for me from favorites like Dinosaur Jr., The Replacements and Husker Du. But there was an aura in the Whigs’ music that those groups were never capable of invoking. And originality — no one before or since has conjured the magical abstract-art guitar squiggles Whigs guitarist Rick McCollum has churned out and John Curley is one of the “Alt Rock” revolution’s most distinctive bassists, with his sublime mix of melody, feel and sheer propulsiveness. Original drummer Steve Earle also had a trademark sound in his playing, a flurry of Hard Rock bluster and shuffling dance rhythms. Together with the hearty, evocative songwriting, The Afghan Whigs always had something more — an air of mystique and a sound beyond the trends — than their late ’80s SubPop peers, not to mention their ’90s Alternative Nation breakthrough cohorts.  I got lost in the dark corners and ominous shadows of the music, as well as its manic moments of pure, jubilant uplift and smothering, inescapable sadness. And I soon began to pick up on the words of frontman Greg Dulli, which have repeatedly given me those moments every deep music lover has where they’re almost freaked out by how closely the lyrics mirror their own feelings and experiences. Dulli’s lyrics were raw, clever, poetic and brutally honest “love songs.” It was the brutal honesty of his poetry about relationships that led to a still ongoing belief by detractors that Dulli is a misogynistic asshole. But I never got that vibe, even when the lyrics (always taken out of context when used against him) skewed that way, like on Gentlemen’s “Be Sweet,” where Dulli croons,“Ladies, let me tell you about myself/I got a dick for a brain/And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you/Now I'm OK, but in time I'll find I'm stuck/'Cause she wants love and I still want to fuck” Some find Dulli’s swaggering “lothario” persona onstage off-putting and such lyrics crude, sexist, deplorable. I find them a relevant part of the story and character development, but also a realistic portrayal of a virile young man’s mental process. Dismissing Dulli’s words because you find them dick-ish or “sexist” just seems disingenuous. Men are assholes sometimes. And they can realize that in themselves. And women can be assholes, too.  When I met my current longtime partner, she was as obsessed with Liz Phair’s music as I was The Afghan Whigs’, which made me draw some parallels between the two. She loved Liz Phair for the same reason I loved the Whigs — their music spoke directly to us and was dazzling in its self-awareness and rare candor. It should be noted that I really love Liz Phair’s first album (the main one she built her legend upon, Exile in Guyville), but my girlfriend merely seems to tolerate my affinity for the Whigs. Still, The Afghan Whigs have tons of female fans, some who just love the sound of the band, some who appreciate the quality writing and musicianship, some who find Dulli’s honesty sexy and some who find the man himself a hunk among hunks. There are usually an equal amount of male and females in an Afghan Whigs audience.  Dulli’s lyrics have a personal, intimate style, like something being revealed to you in a whisper or drunken yowl in the backroom of a speakeasy, which might be why most of his critics fail to consider the possibility of a non-autobiographical “narrator.”  What Dulli’s lyrics offered to me was something I hadn’t heard before, and it all goes back to that brutal honesty. He was presenting a more complete and complex picture of love, one that admitted mistakes, wielded vitriol like a sword, cranked up the self-deprecation, wallowed in sex, drugs and misery and held on to the hope and promise that love first presents. The Whigs’ connections to classic Soul music isn’t just in the sound or beats; that lyrical description could also be about Marvin Gaye or any number of great vintage Blues and Soul artists. Dulli sings about the emotional ups and downs a man in, out or around love feels. And his honesty made a lot of uptight people (and men trying to seem “femi-sensitive”) uncomfortable. It’s sort of like a non-ridiculous version of Howard Stern’s “He says the things we all think and feel but can’t say ourselves!” Like Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller, Dulli never ran his insight through a PC filter — he just ran it out, filter-less. I can be masochistic in my listening habits, cuing up songs that are painful in their reminder of darker times or clinging to them during fresh, new depressing moments. But I’ve also listened to the Whigs while elated and ready to celebrate. Though I don’t have the same visceral response to the Whigs’ more upbeat “party” anthems (particularly on the band’s swan song, 1965), I’ve grown to love them almost as much. During dysfunctional moments in love affairs, with my issues with drugs and alcohol, Gentlemen’s “Fountain and Fairfax” — with it’s lines like “Let me drink, let me tie off/I'm really slobbering now” — stung. But it was a good sting, like a shot of whiskey. Songs like these, the ones that echoed my weird, nihilistic feelings of “fuck it all,” helped me realize I wasn’t totally insane. Or at least I wasn’t the only one who was trying to understand and deal with this insanity. Black Love closer “Faded” has been an anthem for many breakups, the Purple Rain-sway giving me the same kind of chills Wendy and Lisa get in the Prince movie when he plays the title track for the first time. And whenever my longtime battle with depression has led me to suicidal thoughts in my life, “Crime Scene (Part One),” the numb, opening salvo on the Whigs noir, emotionally-wrenching masterpiece Black Love, starts running through my brain: “Tonight, tonight I say goodbye/To everyone who loves me/Stick it to my enemies, tonight/Then I disappear.” More than once, it’s brought me to tears and squashed all suicidal thoughts — thinking of saying goodbye to everyone who loves you is sometimes all it takes. As I eventually got my shit together, getting off the hard drugs and managing my alcohol intake, another Whigs’ song would haunt me, but this time in a purely reassuring way. I’ve used a “program” called Rational Recovery to help me stay off of drugs and alcohol and the essence of the system is mental cognizance — being able to recognize when your mind and body are trying to get you to drink or do drugs. You turn this “feeling” into a physical thing and name it. I suppose it could be named anything, but I’ve gone with “The Beast,” per the suggestion of the Rational Recovery book.  It sounds silly, but merely saying in my head, “That’s The Beast,” has worked wonders for me staying sober. I eventually started to cling to a line from The Afghan Whigs’ single “Debonair” from Gentlemen: “Once again the monster speaks/Reveals his face and searches for release.” It so perfectly matches my “sobriety mantra” and mental ritual, I’ve considered having it tattooed on my arm.  I’m fairly certain that I would’ve become a huge Afghan Whigs fan if I wasn’t from Cincinnati. Even before I found a way to make a living from writing about music from the area, I loved “homegrown” music and never saw it as simply “local music.” But being able to see the Whigs in concert dozens of times, venues big and small, all over the region, including a few epic holiday shows and a couple of “secret” warm-up shows the band would sneak in before hitting the road — that certainly helped their “favorite band” status in my mind.  The Whigs have long been a phenomenal live band. Musically, it’s always been a tight but ragged glory. But Dulli is one of the most entertaining, funniest banterers in the history of Rock & Roll. His mid-set chats (formerly trademark “smoke breaks,” though Greg is now apparently a non-smoker) were like an edgy, fired-up stand-up comedian going into the audience for some “Hey, where you from?” volleying. But in Dulli’s case, it was usually a time to talk musical tastes, new bands, maybe throw out some humorous sports commentary, playfully taunting every other person in the venue. It was loose, like party chatter, and I always found it an hysterical highlight of every Whigs show. Comedy and music are my two favorite things in the world and the Whigs usually delivered both in concert. The band members were a few years older than me, so there was a sense of awe early on when seeing them around town. When a band I was in was playing at Sudsy Malone’s in the early ’90s, it would be a total mind-fuck to hear a Whigs member was in the crowd. Especially because I’d taken to listening to the band’s music so much, almost everything I played for a long time was informed by the Whigs. (Big C chords with a suspended 7 or mere C to E-minor chord progressions are classic early Whigs’ motifs.)  I’m far from the only local musician from the’90s (and likely beyond) inspired by the Whigs’ music, but there was another kind of inspiration during that era when all of the band members were out and about in Cincinnati. The Whigs’ “fuck it, let’s just go do this” ambition, just getting in the van and going, actually worked. That gave a lot of musicians hope that they could be heard outside of city limits even if they were from Cincinnati. But, unlike in Seattle, where there were several groups with similar sounds rising simultaneously, the Whigs were too unique to copy to the point where a label might sign a “soundalike” band. It’s what’s great about Cincinnati music — the lack of a unifying sound as a result of artists trying to make their own unique thing.  The Whigs were even involved in starting my career — the very first review of any piece of art I ever wrote was a take on the band’s Congregation album for a features/criticism class I took at the University of Cincinnati. (I remember getting a pretty high grade and thinking, “I got this.”) Once I’d decided I wanted to write about music full-time, I accepted an internship in New York City. Driving over the hills into New York City, the Whigs’ remix of “Miles Iz Ded” called “Rebirth of the Cool” came on some random NY/NJ-area radio station. It made me feel like I was on the right track. Gradually, I’d meet all of the members out and about, and each had that Midwestern down-to-earthness that it usually takes outsiders to point out.   Well, I’d meet every member except Mr. Dulli. During the peak Whigs years, Dulli seemed especially sensitive to negative press, reportedly calling out (or just calling up) writers who’d say sometimes legit, sometimes stupid things about him or his band. I was a mentally unstable substance abuser who, for reasons I don’t completely remember or understand, added a couple of dumb barbs about the band into my column or elsewhere in CityBeat over the course of a few years. They weren’t especially harsh, save for one aside where I mentioned (jokingly) that a rumor was suggesting Dulli had developed a massive bourbon habit and gained 500 lbs (or something equally outrageous). It was stupid and baseless and, given his family lives in the area and might read it (this was pre-internet-is-everywhere), he had every right to be angered by my youthful idiocy. If you’re reading this, Greg, I apologize. It was another lesson in growing the fuck up, courtesy of The Afghan Whigs.  I came to despise that sort of trashy journalism but, in a cruel twist of fate, baseless gossip websites might just be the only job I’ll be able to get one day given the state of newspapers. In response to my bad-taste alcoholic/obesity sentence, I received a fax (a fax!) from Dulli’s publicist saying the Greg was challenging me to an AIDS test. I’m still not totally sure why, though I think it was either a comment on my taste in women or my IV drug problem at the time. I was flummoxed. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Confused. Then tickled. “Greg Dulli knows who I am?” (Then ashamed again: “One of my musical heroes hates me.”) That how much I love Dulli and his musical partners’ output — he might’ve strangled me with his bare hands if we ran into each other at a bar and I would’ve been all, “He touched me!”  Many of Dulli’s more direct peers from the Cincinnati area who were around when the Whigs were coming up don’t seem to have a very positive opinion of the man, but I’ve always taken their shots at him with a grain of salt. There might have been some jealousy or maybe Greg really was an asshole in his mid-20s. I can relate. There are so many stories and legends about Dulli’s personal life and actions during his time in Cincy as the Whigs were taking off, he’s like an urban Rock Star Davy Crocket.  None of it has ever changed how I listen to the Whigs’ music. To this day, when I’ve been in a relationship in turmoil or crumbling apart, I still think to myself, “My life is becoming an Afghan Whigs song again.” And I know there will be some emotional pain and probably a few bad decisions involved, but it’s at least going to be an interesting ride. The one that never ends. 
 
 
by Mike Breen 09.20.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music Video, Music News at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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WATCH: Afghan Whigs Launch U.S. Tour on 'Kimmel'

Cincy legends play "My Enemy," "Uptown Again" on late-night TV

The Afghan Whigs kicked off their upcoming U.S. tour — which brings them to back to their hometown twice, at Bogart's on Oct. 25 (sold out) and Dec. 31 (tickets on sale to the general public tomorrow through ticketmaster.com) — by performing on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. The Whigs performed "My Enemy," Track 2 on their masterpiece, 1996's Black Love, and played the show off with "Uptown Again" off the band's swan song, 1965, from 1998. And, once again, they sound better than ever. You can watch the full episode here. Here's "Enemy." And here's "Uptown," in full (only a snippet made it on the air):The group performed a "mini concert" for those assembled at Kimmel's studio in Hollywood. The great Whigs fan site Summer's Kiss reports that the Whigs played Gentlemen track "Fountain & Fairfax" and the Black Love song for which the site is named, "Summer's Kiss." Kimmel's official site sometimes posts bonus songs, so if/when we find good footage, we'll update this post.
 
 
by Mike Breen 09.17.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Afghan Whigs to Play Bogart's on New Year's Eve

CityBeat sponsors hometown greats' last show of 2012

Billboard magazine recently ran an interview with Greg Dulli, frontman of legendary, recently-reunited crew The Afghan Whigs, titled "Afghan Whigs: Gone In November?" in which the singer/songwriter was coy about the band's plans beyond its current run of U.S. tour dates. Today we can answer that question with a resounding "NO!"After the current slate of announced dates (which kick off this weekend in New York City at the Dulli-curated Night 2 of the All Tomorrow's Parties/I'll Be Your Mirror fest) wraps up in L.A. on Nov. 10, the band has added one new date — a second homecoming show (following a sold-out affair Oct. 25) on New Year's Eve at Bogart's. CityBeat is the presenting sponsor of the concert, so if you strike out on tickets, be sure to check out our "Win Stuff!" hub to register for freebies. The tickets will first be available tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster.com. This is the "fan pre-sale"; just enter the password "Happynewyear" to get it on the early action. Remaining tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. (Here is the pre-sale link, which will go live tomorrow morning.) UPDATE: Actually, HERE is the real on-sale link, live right now. To get the U.S. dates started with a little promo push, the group is performing this Wednesday night as the musical guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (If you're curious, the other guests Wednesday are actors Julie Bowen and Nate Parker.) The band will reportedly be performing a "mini-concert" for assembled fans, so keep an eye out after the show for more clips from the appearance.
 
 
by Mike Breen 08.03.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music Video at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Watch Afghan Whigs Live at Lollapalooza Today

Lollapalooza YouTube channel to stream live sets all weekend from Chicago

It's not quite the same as being there — unless you have long lines at your refrigerator, like to keep your house a balmy 105 degrees and live shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of drunk people — but watching a music festival from the comfort of your own home isn't the worst thing in the world. (You could, for example, be watching Two and a Half Men.) The Lollapalooza YouTube channel will be streaming various artists' sets from this year's festival in Chicago, including today's 5:15 p.m. (Cincy/EST time) performance by reunited Cincinnati icons The Afghan Whigs. The festival begins this afternoon; streaming starts at 1:30 p.m. I watched a few live sets from last year's Lollapalooza through the YouTube site and the footage and stream were both pretty strong. Here's another Cincy act performing at Lolla last year.Here's the full rundown of streams for the next three days of Lolla (times are CST, so add an hour if you are in the Queen City):FRIDAY    •    1:30 PM    •    Yellow Ostrich    •        •    1:30 PM    •    Michael Kiwanuka    •        •    2:15 PM    •    The Black Angels    •        •    2:15 PM    •    Dr. Dog    •        •    3:00 PM    •    The War on Drugs    •        •    3:30 PM    •    Blind Pilot    •        •    4:00 PM    •    Metric    •        •    4:15 PM    •    The Afghan Whigs    •        •    5:15 PM    •    The Head & The Heart    •        •    5:15 PM    •    Tame Impala    •        •    6:15 PM    •    The Shins    •        •    6:15 PM    •    Band of Skulls    •        •    7:00 PM    •    Sharon Van Etten    •        •    7:30 PM    •    Dawes    •        •    8:00 PM    •    Die Antwoord    •        •    8:30 PM    •    The Black KeysSATURDAY    •    1:30 PM    •    JEFF the Brotherhood    •        •    1:30 PM    •    Los Jaivas    •        •    2:15 PM    •    Delta Spirit    •        •    2:15 PM    •    GIVERS    •        •    3:00 PM    •    Neon Indian    •        •    3:15 PM    •    Aloe Blacc    •        •    4:00 PM    •    The Temper Trap    •        •    4:15 PM    •    Alabama Shakes    •        •    5:15 PM    •    FUN.    •        •    5:15 PM    •    First Aid Kit    •        •    6:00 PM    •    The Weeknd    •        •    6:00 PM    •    Washed Out    •        •    6:45 PM    •    tUnE-yArDs    •        •    7:00 PM    •    Bloc Party    •        •    8:00 PM    •    Red Hot Chili Peppers    •        •    8:30 PM    •    AviciiSUNDAY    •    1:30 PM    •    Oberhofer    •        •    1:30 PM    •    Bombay Bicycle Club    •        •    2:15 PM    •    Trampled By Turtles    •        •    2:30 PM    •    White Rabbits    •        •    3:00 PM    •    The Walkmen    •        •    3:15 PM    •    Gary Clark Jr.    •        •    4:15 PM    •    Franz Ferdinand    •        •    4:15 PM    •    J.Cole    •        •    5:15 PM    •    The Gaslight Anthem    •        •    5:15 PM    •    Toro Y Moi    •        •    6:00 PM    •    At The Drive-In    •        •    6:15 PM    •    Of Monsters & Men    •        •    7:15 PM    •    Florence + the Machine    •        •    7:15 PM    •    The Big Pink    •        •    8:15 PM    •    Miike Snow    •        •    8:30 PM    •    Jack White    •        •    9:15 PM    •    Childish GambinoClick here to watch all of the Lollapalooza streams. The Whigs — who will perform at great Chicago club Metro for a sold-out post-Lolla party tomorrow night — have most recently added tour dates in Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The group comes home to Cincinnati's Bogart's on Oct. 25 for a sold-out gig with part-time tourmates Wussy. (Don't have tickets? Click here for a chance to win a a pair.)
 
 

Dynamic Duo Pimps ‘Tennessee’ Blues

46 Long's new LP, plus news on for algernon, Seedy Seeds, Wussy and The Afghan Whigs

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Blues twosome 46 Long unveils eclectic new LP, plus for algernon set to resume recording after serious auto accident and Wussy set to hit the road with The Afghan Whigs  
by Mike Breen 07.31.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Wussy To Join Afghan Whigs U.S. Tour

Two of Cincinnati's all-time best join forces this fall

Cincy rockers Wussy are set to join the much-celebrated Afghan Whigs' reunion tour this fall when the band finally hits the U.S. for a string of dates. Another great exhibition of Cincy's rich music scene, again in the national spotlight. Wussy has been touring a lot more than usual lately, including its first West Coast jaunt, so this should help raise the group's national profile even more.So far, Wussy is set to open for The Afghan Whigs for their homecoming show at Bogart's on Oct. 25 (sold out), as well as dates in New Orleans (Oct. 19), Atlanta (Oct. 20), Carrboro, NC (Oct. 21) and another sold-out affair in Detroit (Oct. 24). More dates are expected to be announced soon.Wussy co-lead-singer/songwriter Chuck Cleaver is a longtime friend/mutual fan of the Whigs. Back in 1993, the local label Mono Cat 7 released a split single featuring the Whigs and Cleaver's former band, The Ass Ponys. The Ponys covered The Whigs' tune "You My Flower," while Greg Dulli and Co. tackled the Ass Ponys classic "Mr. Superlove." (That's the cover art, with former Short Vine mayor Archie acting as the model, above.) Here's a fan-made video for the Whigs' take on "Mr. Superlove" (NSFW due to mild nudity).More recently, Wussy recorded a great cover version of another early Whigs song, Up In It opening track, "Retarded," for an Afghan Whigs tribute compilation put out by fantastic Afghan Whigs site Summer's Kiss (listen or purchase here). The comp also included Whigs renditions by Mark Lanegan, Joseph Arthur and several other acts. Give a listen to Wussy's "Retarded" below.
 
 
by Mike Breen 07.16.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Whigs Offer Free Download of Frank Ocean Cover

Reunited local greats also add dates to substantial North American tour

Along with the obscure R&B song "See and Don't See," the reunited Afghan Whigs have been performing their cover of modern Soul singer Frank Ocean's "Lovecrimes" since the start of its global tour. Since then, Ocean made headlines for declaring his bisexuality, a rarity in the world of Hip Hop (though a Soul crooner, he's part of of the Odd Future posse), and he's been busting up the charts with his LP release, Channel Orange. And now, the Cincinnati trio is unveiling a studio version of the cover and, as they did with "See and Don't See," they're offering it as a free download for fans via theafghanwhigs.com. The track will be available starting at noon today (get a sneak peep via The Fader below). The Whigs have also been gradually adding dates to its North American fall tour schedule. After spending most of the summer touring abroad, the band kicks off several weeks' worth of U.S. dates, beginning with the first domestic show announced — the Sept. 22 headlining slot at All Tomorrow's Parties' ’ll Be Your Mirror Festival, curated by singer/songwriter/guitarist Greg Dulli. (That show has been moved from Asbury Park to New York City's Pier 36; click here for details.) The band recently added Boston and Philly dates to the schedule, as well as November dates on the West Coast. So far, Whigs dates in D.C., NYC, Detroit and here in Cincinnati have sold out. If you missed out on getting tickets for the Cincy show at Bogart's (part of the venue's 30th anniversary celebration), you can sign up to win a pair here thanks to your old pals at CityBeat.UPDATE: Here's the free download widget. Enter your email, check your in-box and download away!                       
 
 
by Mike Breen 06.19.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 08:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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The Afghan Whigs Book Cincinnati Show

Local rockers' reunion returns to the scene of their initial final public show

Before its current successful run of reunion concerts across the globe, The Afghan Whigs played its final live show at a New York City club called Hush on Sept. 29, 1999. But that was a private concert. The Whigs last public appearance was Sept. 25, 1999, at Cincinnati's Bogart's with special guests Howlin' Maggie. (The set list featured a large chunk of final album 1965, as well as lots of dips into cover tunes and snippets, including opener "The Boys Are Back in Town," and dashes of "Superstition," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "Little Red Corvette," "People Get Ready," "Hot for Teacher," "All You Need is Love" and Madonna's "Express Yourself," among others.)Today it was announced that The Afghan Whigs will return to the scene of the crime and perform their first hometown show in over a decade on Oct. 25 at Bogart's, one month and 13 years after that final concert. Tickets are $33.50 ($45.86 with fees). The fan pre-sale starts this morning at 10 a.m.; tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday at 10 a.m. Click here for info. (Check The Afghan Whigs' official site for a password to get in on the pre-sale.)Though the neighborhood has changed a lot since The Whigs roamed the earth originally, the band returning to Corryville is fitting. While frontman Greg Dulli would eventually bring his band The Twilight Singers to Newport's Southgate House frequently, Bogart's was the Whigs hometown concert home. Before that, the group played many shows at long-since-shuttered Sudsy Malone's across the street from Bogart's, while it and Top Cat's just a few blocks up the street were the sites of a few epic "secret shows," warm-up gigs for tours where the band would perform under a pseudonym like The Havana Sugar Kings or Gato Negro. Update: The fan pre-sale password for Bogart's is uptownagain. Use it here starting at 10 a.m. today.Update2: The pre-sale is now at noon today, according to the ticketing site.
 
 
by Sean Rhiney 05.29.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Reviews at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Review: Afghan Whigs in New York City

Reunited Cincinnati rockers go to town at first live show in 13 years

When The Afghan Whigs announced late last year they would be reuniting for a pair of appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties in London and New Jersey (since grown to a full blown European tour of summer festivals and clubs), music critics and fans rejoiced. For years, interviewers probed lead singer Greg Dulli about the possibility while he promoted his successful projects The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins. The answer, when it would come, was usually a firm "No" — everything that needed to be said with the Whigs had been said. Disappointed fans had reason to mourn — in the ’80s/’90s, Whigs' live shows were legendary for their one-two punch of cathartic anthems and ass-shaking grooves, with the alpha male voodoo cast by Dulli. Unlike scores of other bands who get back together for all the wrong reasons — an embarrassing reality television moment or ill-conceived package tour (“Grunge on Ice!”) — The Whigs embraced this reunion on their own terms. It's been well covered in the press that all parties involved in the Whigs' camp said that the time was just right for this rendezvous. No hatchets to bury, no compromises to make and no million dollar title sponsorship necessary — the schedules just worked out and, by all accounts, everyone was in the right place, personally, emotionally, professionally.  That wasn’t the case in 2001 though, when the group cited physical distance as a prime reason behind their curtain call as a band. Two newish tracks momentarily reunited the band in 2006 for a career spanning retrospective, but no decision to re-group was made until bassist John Curley and guitarist Rick McCollum quietly got together with Dulli in New Orleans late last fall to test the waters. Obviously, they were pleased with what they heard.Flash forward to this past week, halfway into their first live show in over a decade at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.  Any concern that Dulli considered the band's reunion shows as some sort of middle-aged victory lap was put to rest as he traded quips with a heckler who apparently hadn’t got the memo about Dulli's legendary run-ins, on and off the stage with audience members who couldn’t resist being a part of the show.  Without dropping a beat, Dulli offered the fellow a cautionary warning before returning to the music at hand: “You know, I will fuck you up.”  Your attention please, indeed.The Whigs still take their music seriously. In the month leading up to the somewhat surprise of a show at the Ballroom in New York this past week, the Whigs holed up in Cincinnati at Curley’s Ultrasuede Studio to give their entire catalog a work out. But hometown anonymity gave way when the band arrived in NYC to a New York Times proclamation that their sold out show in the Lower East Side was the “most sought after ticket in the Northeast.”  Fitting perhaps as well that the Whigs first show back would take place in the city where they played their final show in 1999 (unbeknownst to anyone).  That Tuesday, the Whigs' fired their own opening salvo with their first television appearance in over a decade on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It takes balls to play your first live gig in 13 years on TV in front of millions of viewers — not to mention performing a relatively obscure R&B tune (“See and Don’t See” by Marie “Queenie” Lyons) instead of one of your hits. Business as usual for the uncompromising Whigs.  Since Uptown Avondale's track by track Soul homage, the Whigs have been notorious for unearthing and reinventing old school R&B tracks. This time around, the Whig’s recorded a fragile interpretation of Lyons’ song, which was released online the week before. The tune got the Whigs' Chamber Rock treatment on Fallon with a string section and The Roots' ?uestlove joining in on drums while a nattily attired Dulli coolly plead his case. Later, after Fallon signed off air, the band recorded a bonus track for the show’s website, ripping through a caustic, muscular version of “I’m Her Slave.” Hopefully viewers at home didn’t miss the moment immediately after the song where Dulli and the usually reserved Curley quickly traded wide, shit-eating grins, obviously pleased with what the band just dropped on millions of viewers, many of whom had probably never had the opportunity to see the Whigs on their first go around.      If the Fallon appearance was the peek behind the curtain, the sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom the next night was the full on Angelina-leg-bearing reveal. The band wasted no time, dipping heavily into Gentleman and Black Love, including a reprisal of “I’m Her Slave” and a dizzying “Conjure Me” from Congregation. The Whigs also visited a few tracks from their final full-length, 1965, before adding a couple of covers — the Lyons' track from Fallon and a spooky, piano-driven take on Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes.”  Presumably left for later in the tour was anything from the band's Sub Pop debut, Up In It. The band did, however, go six tracks deep from their noir epic, Black Love, including show opener "Crime Scene Part I" and the set-ending epic trio of “Bulletproof,” “Summer’s Kiss” and perennial show closer “Faded,” with the little coda from Purple Rain tagged on for good measure. But it was the reintroduction of the title track from Gentleman that brought the house down.The song had seemingly been shelved for live sets post-Black Love, it's rumored because of the heavy-hearted toll delivering the scathing lover’s reproach night after night took on its author. Whatever the reason, Dulli was back on better terms with his signature song, playfully pointing fingers and shaking his ass while the rest of the Whigs powered through the song’s metallic groove.The reconvened Whigs are more light and nimble on their feet than the expansive 1965 final tour that saw the group supported by a cadre of excellent back-up singers and support musicians each night. This time around the trio is augmented by long time Dulli sideman, guitarist David Rosser, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson and drummer Cully Symington. Even without all the extra hands on deck, the resulting sound still allows for moments of fragile beauty amongst the riffs thanks to Nelson’s cello and piano playing.  It’s worth noting that Dulli apparently gave up smokes over a year ago and his voice might be exhibit A for you kids contemplating taking a puff for the first time. He’s refined his aching falsetto and added some harmonic high notes to his trademark whisper-to-a-scream howl that showed no signs of letting down during the near two-hour show. Dulli acknowledged his new smoke-free existence, referencing the now legendary mid-show light ups where he would hold forth on baseball, shitty cover bands or how your girlfriend was flirting with him the entire show while the band would play bemusedly (or not) on. During his heckler beat-down at the Bowery, he even worked in a belated apology to mates Curley and McCollum for their patience during his soliloquies all those years — then accepted a goodwill drag off an audience member’s joint.  Unlike a lot of bands who play Reunion Roulette and lose, if national reviews of the show are any indication, this year’s model of the Whigs arguably sounds better than they did during the ’90s when they first broke on the international scene with their addictive mash up of Midwestern Punk, Rock and Soul.  Dulli said it best after a punkish wind-sprint through 1965’s "Uptown Again," when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the crowd for coming, adding, “It feels like we never left."Full setlist from the Whigs' Facebook page:
 
 

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