The Afghan Whigs formed while still in college and launched out of Cincinnati in the mid-’80s, making the kind of amped-up garage rock that would earn them comparisons to the likes of the Replacements and Dinosaur Jr.—and gain them a cult following thanks to what AllMusic calls frontman “Greg Dulli’s tortured, angst-ridden tales of broken relationships and self-loathing.” They released six albums between 1988 and 1998 before amicably breaking up three years later. But you can’t keep a good band down, and so the Afghan Whigs (above, performing “Algiers” for KEXP FM) returned in 2012. Their seventh long-player, Do the Beast (stream it below), arrived two years later. “Do to the Beast leaves you emotionally wrought. Where Dulli had previously played the sleaze we reveled in living vicariously through, here he has us choking back tears for him, the violent aggressor,” said the Line of Best Fit. “The album has an air of closure, the Whigs pull out all their musical stops and Dulli seems to find an end, albeit not the happiest one.” And this past May, the band put out another well-received full-length, In Spades (stream it below). “Bolstered again by the louche and ravaged voice of singer Greg Dulli,” said Pitchfork, “the latest from the indie rock icons is delightfully stuffed with romance and rancor.” Having just launched a new tour, the Afghan Whigs come to The Bowery Ballroom on Friday to play In Spades in its entirety followed by a second set and then hit Brooklyn Steel on Saturday. Former New Yorker Har Mar Superstar opens both shows.
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Tags: Afghan Whigs, Apollo Theater, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel, Dave Rosser, Greg Dulli, Gregg Greenwood, In Spades, John Curley, Jon Skibic, Live Music, Music, New York City, Patrick Keeler, Photos
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The Afghan Whigs – The Bowery Ballroom – May 23, 2012
It had been 13 years since the Afghan Whigs last played live, enough time to bring a human from infancy to the uncomfortable stages of adolescence. While the band’s first public appearance was technically on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday night, playing a sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom last night makes it officially their first show since 1999. The significance of the night and their return wasn’t lost on anyone. And they’re still incredible, obviously. Was there ever any doubt? Still completely able to sing softly, Greg Dulli’s voice has defied the tests of time, leaving fans eagerly waiting for him to launch into his signature strained and soulful bellows that at times sound more like desperate pleas than singing.
“Do you think I’m beautiful? / Or do you think I’m evil,” sang Dulli in the slow-building opener, “Crime Scene Part One.” Rick McCollum’s scorching guitar riffs set the scene for the lyrics, upping the intensity to match the force of Dulli’s voice. The band did a solid job of hitting the favorites, from the well-known and much-loved “Gentlemen” and “Debonair” to fan picks “I’m Her Slave” and “Bulletproof.” Dulli twice gave shout-outs and praise to Megan Jasper and Jonathan Poneman from Sub Pop for signing the band back in 1989, a sign that the group could sense what the night meant to their legacy.
Apparently the best way to prevent the Afghan Whigs from slipping back into retirement is by demanding that they never stop playing. After a four-song encore that included the newly released “See and Don’t See” Marie “Queenie” Lyons cover, as well as the unanticipated “Love Crimes” Frank Ocean cover, the audience wanted another encore, so the band returned to play “Miles Iz Ded.” If anyone in the crowd wanted more after that, they’ll just have to wait for when the band returns in the fall and hope that this reunion thing will last for a while. —Dan Rickershauser