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[Updated] Live Review/Stage Buzz: The Afghan Whigs at Metro

| September 20, 2017

The Afghan Whigs

The Afghan Whigs

Metro, Chicago

Sept. 23

Midway through the set Saturday night at Metro, Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli momentarily halted the band’s momentum after the song “Algiers” to address one particular fan:

“Wasted and flipping me off is not going to work,” he said to a woman near the stage. As the crowd murmured, he continued, “This is not a negotiation – walk her to the back of the room.” She obliged and Dulli finished with, “I haven’t done that in 10 years. I’m so upset I’m not going to sing this next song.”

When the band began again with “Demon In Profile,” just one of many songs played from latest album “In Spades,” Har Mar Superstar filled-in, perhaps with new meaning: “All over your body, this electricity / It was all that I wanted, now it’s killing me.” Guitar and piano exorcised the tension, with Har Mar crooning “I’m so far inside you now, I’m your silhouette.”

The band followed that song with a cover of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” after which Dulli confessed, “I feel better.” The crowd did, too.

About an hour earlier, the band’s second night in a row of shows at Metro began with Dulli taking the stage solo to sing “Birdland”–the only accompaniment was a backing track of cello and other strings–before five other band mates (three total guitarists, including Dulli) joined him for “Arabian Heights,” also the first two songs on In Spades.

This lineup (with bassist John Curley the only other original member) allowed the Whigs to forego nuance and subtlety in song choice. Instead, the set list favored wall-of-sound guitar selections from the band’s deep catalogue. Some violin and cello were incorporated sparingly, but the multi-guitar line-up was the showcase.

The rocking “Honky’s Ladder” (from 1996’s Black Love album) solidified early Dulli’s swaggering persona: “If you tell me ‘don’t get mixed up with the devil,’ that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.” The band reached further into its past to play “Turn On The Water” from 1992’s breakthrough album Congregation. That was followed later with the rollicking “Fountain and Fairfax” (from 1993’s groundbreaking Gentlemen album) with Dulli desperately beseeching: “Angel, I’m sober / I got off that stuff, just like you asked me to.”

Dulli continued his trademark come-ons with “Somethin’ Hot” the opening track on album 1965 (released in 1998), with the lyrics “I want to get you high / I want to get next to you.” The Whigs, around for decades now, know something of temptation and regret, of angels and demons.

“Can Rova” served as a double tribute: to recently deceased soul/R&B artist Charles Bradley, as well as to Dave Rosser, a Whigs guitarist who died of cancer earlier this year. Dulli pointed out that the last time the band played at Metro, in 2014, that Rosser played guitar “right there,” pointing to stage right.

The band had the crowd clapping in unison for “Oriole” with opening lyrics, “Light the candle, lock the door too / Draw the circle, I’ll fall into you.”  Also from the latest album, the band played “Copernicus,” “Toy Automatic” and finished the set with “Into The Floor,” melding lyrics from Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” into the ending.

The encore featured “Parked Outside” from 2014’s Do To The Beast album – during which Dulli appropriately sung, “If they’ve seen it all, show them something new” – and the bombastic “Summer’s Kiss” from the “Black Love” album.

With Chicago baking under record-breaking heat, and the heat generated by the band’s 90-plus-minute rocking set, Dulli’s exhortation seemed a little difficult to accept: “Did you feel the breeze, my love? / Summer’s kiss is over, baby, over.”
-Jason Scales



The Afghan Whigs

Metro, Chicago

Fri Sept. 22, Sat Sept 23

The Afghan Whigs like to get comfortable at Metro – they return to the venue for a two-night residency (Sept. 22 and 23) after last doing so in 2014 in support of the album Do To The Beast, the first new vinyl and digital from the band since 1998.

Now, though, the focus is on In Spades, released earlier this year, another album that mines the depths of desire, betrayal, heartbreak and regret that fans expect from frontman Greg Dulli. The latest effort still rocks in a dirty, soulful way, and the band incorporates string instruments (cello and violin) on multiple tracks, including “Oriole” and “The Spell.”

What’s to be seen is how the band incorporates this instrumentation live and which tracks they will play from their extensive catalogue. What’s guaranteed, though, is a cathartic display of slow-burn/rock-out tunes with themes of devil-and-angel perched on Dulli’s shoulder.

– Jason Scales

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Category: Live Reviews, Stage Buzz

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