It was like sticking-a-fork-inside-an-outlet, sort of electric. People were milling around Seattle’s Showbox at the Market all hopped up on anticipation, beer and hustle.
Like me, at least a dozen people had made the 3.5hr trek from Vancouver, BC for it. The Afghan Whigs had returned after how long? 11 years? Not that was I counting, mentioning it in my new year’s list, or buying the vinyl reissues in the meantime.
I’d been spoiled – I’d already seen the reformed Whigs in August in Belgium at Pukkelpop, and had my brains blown out the back of my skull in hearing tracks from Gentlemen again. I also had history: I’d spent a night hanging out with the Afghan Whigs in the 90s, when things were messy and they had a drummer named Steve Earle. I had the leg up on the West Coast, but I was no less excited tonight. Would they be as ferocious as we remember them from the 90s when the energy in the room was coke- and whiskey-fuelled?
More so. Only minus the mess. And double the volume.
Greg Dulli is sober and leaner, still rocking the Marlboro-gravelled soul-belter of a voice. Bassist John Curley is half his size thanks to a hardcore running regime (“I’m going running with John tomorrow” said SubPop’s VP Megan Jasper after the show. “If you told me in the 90s I’d be doing that, I would never have believed you.”) and fluidly moved between picking and strumming his bass. Rick McCollum, well, Rick looked the same. With three new bandmates, all from Dulli’s other joint, The Twilight Singers, also helping out (Cully Symington on drums, Rick Nelson on keys and cello and Dave Rosser on a third guitar), the ferocity on this tour was coming from a band razor sharp from Twilight touring and from being a group of guys who knew they’d shuffled through the dark days and come out the other side into the light.
During the opening swarm of bees of “Crime Scene Part One”, hairs stood on end before the onslaught chorus: “Do you think I’m beautiful/or do you think I’m evil?” Dulli howled. Ugly women and men in the first few rows chose the former. Then came a monstrous three-pack off of Gentlemen (“When We Two Parted” mashed into a Drake cover of “Over My Dead Body”, followed by “Gentlemen”, then “Debonair”) and the room heaved. Like, literally heaved. The floor bounced under the weight of hundreds of 30-somethings going into the rapture. The awesome filthy sex appeal of “See and Don’t See” dialled things down a bit, but it was only during “Faded” that Dulli took a quiet moment at the piano to give our eardrums a break. Which was handy because “Fountain and Fairfax” had pretty much hammered and anviled the crap out of us.
And while we were just about ready to die in a gleeful pit of nostalgia through the encore and song #20, “Miles iz Ded”, they snuck it in, a new track, “Into the Floor”. Which was fitting. They’d pretty much nailed us there. Oh do come back properly, Afghans. I hadn’t forgotten how much I missed you. \m/
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