Last night, I drove into Philly with Andy to see the Afghan Whigs.
As I told him excitedly on the way in, this was a concert 18 years in the making: I began listening to them when I was about 15. I used to sit in the basement of my childhood home, lights turned low, listening to Gentlemen over and over again. There was a lot I didn’t understand about the music at the time, but I was a fan anyway. I spent a significant amount of time during my high school years going to concerts – Garbage, Bush, the Cure, Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey, Hole, Sonic Youth. I never saw the Afghan Whigs, though I kept listening to them.
Even though they really stopped releasing new material in 1998, they have remained a staple in my musical library. Recently I heard they were reuniting for a few shows, and it reignited my love for their music.
Walking in to the Electric Factory last night, I was nervous and excited. We were about an hour early; the place was nearly empty. We snagged a spot up in the bar with a clear view of the stage and waited. I was not disappointed.
It felt like Greg Dulli pulled the set list for the evening right out of my heart. Opening with Gentlemen‘s “Fountain and Fairfax” and closing with Black Love‘s “Faded,” the show was an incredible retrospective of their catalog. I feel like they played most of Gentlemen and Black Love, which are my two favorite albums, but I knew and loved every song. There was also a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes,” and a new song, “See and Don’t See.”
The familiar desperation of the music was there, the sense of noir that has been their signature sound. Dulli’s voice was raw and potent and ragged and just plain beautiful. He owned that stage, with his guitar swinging around his hips – my chest was so tight, it was so lovely and sexy. The band sounded solid, so incredibly nuanced and that pleading riff in “Faded” really had me on the verge of tears. It was invasive, in the best possible way.
The Afghan Whigs are really good at creating atmosphere. In addition to the music and the stage presence, the lights were unlike what I’m used to for a show – instead of spotlights on the band, there was incredible use of backlighting. The light setup included two spotlights on the floor of the stage that swept through the crowd on a regular basis during the show. It was creepy and delightful.
It was, easily, one of the best shows I have ever seen.