When my friend asked if I wanted to see the Afghan Whigs at the Metro, I asked if they were going to play as many songs from 1965 as they did the last (and also the first) time I saw them a couple years ago. He laughed, he could pretty much guarantee that they would not play eight of that record's eleven songs, but I said yes anyway. Which was a pretty good call. 1965 was my first Afghan Whigs record and I fell in love. I bought Gentlemen and Black Love looking forward to more of the same, only to find heavier songs without the sexy funk that made '65 so addictive. Do the Beast came out earlier this year, and it turns out it picks up where that record left off, almost. And as a result, I loved this show. Maybe because I wasn't expecting it, or probably because it was truly awesome. There was only one song from my my favorite record, but eight from the new one. As with the last show, unexpected covers and bits of other songs (like "Tusk" and "Getting Better") inserted in surprising places made for a remarkable show. The band isn't all that young anymore, but from the balcony that night they were the sexiest group in the world.
It had been many years since I had seen Joseph Arthur, but it seemed weird to think the quiet singer/songwriter I'd seen at Montmartre so long ago would be tonight's opener. I don't know where he's been the last ten years, but painting seems as likely an answer as any. The last time I saw him he transformed a white sheet strung up behind him into an improv work of art. He's perfected this skill into a succinct part of his act. As he spit angry words into a microphone over a looped track, he skillfully turned the blank canvas on the easel into a colorful painting. If he isn't selling these after the show he is missing a prime market. I would imagine an Afghan Whigs crowd would be hard to win over, but he seemed to have suceeded.