Sep 17, 2022
By Matthew Berlyant
Photography by Matthew Berlyant
In all of their various incarnations throughout their thirty-five year career, The Afghan Whigs have always been a great live band. This version, which features (count ‘em) four guitarists at various points (and at other points, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Rick G. Nelson played keyboards and even violin on a few tracks) came off like a blues punk wall of sound, somehow combining the manic energy and blues-inspired howl of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club with elements of the grunge rock that they were (somewhat unfairly) associated with back in the early ‘90s after signing with Sub Pop. Although they didn’t perform any songs from their first three albums, the rest of their catalog was touched upon, with a mid-set highlight being a three-song set consisting of songs from 1993’s magnum-opus Gentlemen, considered their finest hour by many. Starting with the title track and the single “What Jail is Like”, they then segued into an impromptu cover of Bo Diddley’s immortal classic “Who Do You Love” followed by “Fountain of Fairfax,” which prompted an audience singalong during the part of the song where singer and leader Greg Dulli identifies the titular intersection. In most bands’ shoes, a cover of a song as well-known and oft-covered as “Who Do You Love” would’ve fallen flat or just been easily skippable, but in the Whigs’ capable hands, they transformed it into a creepy, gothic-laden blues dirge, almost as if they’d written it themselves.
Not content to rest on his laurels by focusing on songs from the distant past, the set included five songs from 2017’s In Spades and five from the brand new How Do You Burn? along with “The Tide” from Dulli’s first-ever officially released solo album, 2020’s Random Desire and they all sounded great. All of this showed that although half of the set consisted of ‘90s materials and covers, they are as much about being relevant in the present as they are comfortable with indulging their justifiably-glorified past.
And in an absolutely perfect ending, the nightcap was an unexpected treat, another Whigs-style version of a well-known classic, this time the immortal Smiths tune “There is a Light that Never Goes Out.” It should also be noted that the band did not perform an encore, instead just choosing to go into their last few tracks after the main set with Dulli’s announcement that they’d be staying on stage and just playing songs that would be part of an expected encore. I don’t know if that is a nightly thing for them or if it had to do with the fact that the show started a little late due to their bus breaking down in DC the night before, but either way, it was a welcome change from the usual predictable encore ritual. And for a band well-known for putting their own spin on an eccentric variety of cover song choices both well-known and hopelessly obscure, they outdid themselves this time around.