Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Sonic Blast: The Afghan Whigs Blanket the Metro With Solid Rock -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Afghan Whigs
w/ opening act Har Mar Superstar 
Metro, Chicago
September 23 (also played 9/22)

Before I went to see the Afghan Whigs Saturday night at Metro, I had heard good things about them--and from them.

But though they've existed since the late-'80s--albeit with a 10-year breakup--I had never been a fan, and knew almost none of their music.

Yet in 2014 when I last attended Riot Fest in Chicago, while waiting to see Paul Weller at a different stage I marveled at how thunderous the Afghan Whigs sounded from across a giant field.

I resolved to see them one day, ideally at an indoor, headlining gig, and though a few Spotify attempts never quite hooked me on their recorded material, I was happy to get reasonably-priced tickets--and the Metro's assurance of a balcony seat--to properly check them out with my friend Brad.

I'm glad I did and I enjoyed the show. But I admittedly can't provide much in the way of critical analysis as I--other than vague familiarity with a few--recognized none of the songs played, didn't long for any songs not played and can't say how this show (or the current iteration of the Whigs) compares to past ones.

Despite my general obliviousness about the band's music, I have long been aware that the Afghan Whigs hailed from Cincinnati, with Greg Dulli as their lead singer and guitarist.

Wikipedia fills in that bassist John Curley is another founding member seemingly still active, and I had noted the passing earlier this year of guitarist Dave Rosser, a veteran musician who had played with the band since 2014, so presumably at Riot Fest.

I can't identify the other guitarist, keyboardist and drummer onstage with Dulli and presumably Curley on Saturday--the second of two nights at Metro--but the band sounded tight and powerful, if not as brain-crushingly loud as I expected based on the Riot Fest volume.

Per, I now know that a third of the 21 songs played across 100 minutes came from the Afghan Whigs' new album--In Spades--with another three taken from their other post-reunion release, 2014's Do to the Beast.

Only one--"Fountain and Fairfax"--came from 1993's Gentlemen, which Brad considers the band's best and best-known record.

That song was one I noted as sounding particularly great, along with the new "Arabian Nights" and, from the prior album, "Matamoras."

But I liked pretty much everything I heard, including a sweet cover of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," on which Dulli played piano.

He had done likewise following a brief tirade against a main floor fan who had irked him with her cell phone and then her middle finger, but on "Demon in Profile" the opening act, Har Mar Superstar, did the singing.

Far be it from me to knock anyone for their physical appearance or choice of clothing, but in sharing the stage with the Whigs, I think Har Mar did well to adorn a shirt, as opposed to much of his musically-enjoyable performance as the opener. (My gut is even bigger than his, but I doubt anyone needs to see it raw onstage, complemented solely by multi-hued leggings.)

Dulli was in strong voice all night, and in addition to repeatedly expressing sorrow over Rosser, he fondly recalled personal interactions with Charles Bradley, a renowned soul singer who had passed earlier on Saturday.

I can't put this down as one of the best concerts I've seen--even just in 2017--or quite matching the previous glimpse of the Afghan Whigs that has remained a happy (but vague, in terms of particular songs) memory.

My lack of familiarity with the music played Saturday certainly may have hindered some of my enjoyment, but with the band mixing up setlists quite a bit--8 different songs were played Friday--I didn't know how to focus any pre-show Spotifamiliarization, and what I had listened to on Spotify still didn't dazzle me.

So I candidly wouldn't be qualified to review this Afghan Whigs show for an actual publication, but not only did I enjoy their performance, I valued the atypical experience of seeing a band in concert with scant point of reference.

For what it's worth, Brad--who had seen two prior Whigs gigs plus the Riot Fest barrage, and well-knows Gentlemen and more--also found the show terrific but a tad lesser than previous ones due to the preponderance of newer, unknown material.

I can't recall or readily find specific sources, but believe I had read that In Spades--and even Do to the Beast--represents considerable stylistic variance from the Afghan Whigs' music prior to the 2001 breakup.

As hopefully already well-noted, I thought the band sounded great and rocked hard, but it's possible that even for hardcore, longtime fans--and the Metro was sold out and raucous--there were ways this concert wouldn't quite be comparable to those of 20 years ago.

Or even 3.

And maybe I might have loved hearing quite a bit more from Gentlemen, Congregation or 1965--all highly-rated by but represented by one song each.

But for my first night of truly Whigging out, I can truly say I have no complaints to accompany a considerable amount of pleasure.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Looks like Har Mar could use a wig too.