I had only just gotten into the Afghan Whigs as they were ending. Gentlemen may have been their most popular record, but I didn’t hear them until their swan song 1965 (the record not the year). I probably ordered it from the record club, which was a cheap way to hear new music back then, and it was a revelation. It’s a very sexy record due to the bumping bass and Greg Dulli’s gorgeous growl. It’s the way he sings “if you’re waiting for my move, well, I’m making it” that gets me every time. It’s a record I can listen to over and over. I ordered Black Love and Gentlemen hoping for more of the same, but I was disappointed. They were heavier and not as addictive. So when a friend asked if I wanted to go to the after show they were playing in conjunction with their reunion show at Lollapalooza, I wanted to know how many songs they were going to play from 1965. She was pretty sure they wouldn’t play the whole record (which I was hoping for), but she did send me a recent set list. “Crazy” and “66” (which contains the aforementioned line) were on it, and since those are my two favorite songs I was in.
Turns out it was my lucky night and they played a lot more than that, in fact they played the bulk of the album, eight of eleven songs. And even if they hadn’t played more than half the record I still would have been happy, because it was a pretty amazing show. It started good and kept getting better. Much of that had to do with Dulli himself, he was intense and charming at the same time. The rest of the credit goes to the band, especially all of the extra players along for the ride. The big-voiced backing vocalists are the key to 1965’s soul sound, and if these weren’t the people who sang on the original recording, they certainly did a good job of filling those shoes. My favorite part of the show had some local flavor, and I’m not talking about the somnambulistic opening band. Nope, I’m talking about the horn section consisting of Nate Lepine, Nick Broste and Dave Max Crawford. The saxophone, trombone and trumpet players who jazzed up tonight’s set are better known to me backing Chris Mills as his City That Works. Pretty awesome. I’m not sure if the Whigs are recruiting local musicians to play these parts in every city they visit, but I’m glad they did here.
In addition to all the hits, they played a surprising amount of covers, Radiohead, Frank Ocean and crowd favorite Thin Lizzy, and Dulli seemed to enjoy these songs more than his own. Too bad their October return show is sold out already, I would definitely go again.