The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, Sydney
26 July, 2012
By EARL O'NEILL
Share This isn't a band with fair weather fans. Anyone who digs them believes them to be the best band in the world, certainly the Band Of The Nineties. It's the individuality of the sound, the power of the lyrics and the music.
A thoroughly unique band. Throughout the arc of rock and roll history, very few bands have synthesised their influences into a unique sound. You could say that Rolling Stones and Kinks did, The Who, fuck yeah! But since then, every great band reflects something of its influences.
I love the Stones because you can dance to them. I love the Kinks for their sense of place and Ray Davies' lyrics. I love The Who for their unique sound. I can say all those about the Afghan Whigs. This may make them the greatest band that ever walked the face of the earth
I've no doubt about the Whigs being thoroughly danceable, my aching legs and sore feet attest to that. There is no better feeling at a great show than to close my eyes and let the music shake me. On that count, it's Whigs #1. I may be able to count all the shows that did that on the fingers of one hand.
Dulli is a gifted songwriter and he's worked at his craft. His songs are inventive, unusual, twisted rhythms and devilishly angelic melodies. He writes screenplays and that's a lot of hard work compared to a three minute song. That work is reflected in his lyrics, holy fuck, some novelists spend thirty years writing ten books trying to get to the point that Greg makes in three minutes.
Such lyrics give the Afghan Whigs their sense of place, nightmares in the long dark night of the soul and warm romance alike, a place that some find themselves in, sometimes trapped when every minute is an eternity and every fuck is a chance to escape or another load on the shoulders.
Crank up the stereo, crack another bottle of wine, light a spliff, snort a line, eat a tab, spin around the loungeroom and dance it all away, love that sound and wonder just where the fuck does it come from?
"Print the legend"
Sometimes fate throws the dice such that a few people connect and magic happens.
Golden lights spun across the velvet backdrop, the Whigs strolled onstage, guitars rattled, "Tonight, tonight, I say goodbye to everyone that loves me – stick it to my enemies tonight – then I disappear" and the Whigs spin Dulli's tales of guilt and fear and the unflinching examination of self-loathing, of hate and love and weakness. And strength.
Yeah, strength, because Greg Dulli's never been anything less than a very good singer, sometimes a great one, but tonight, tonight, his voice was in magnificent form. He looked a fuckload healthier than he did on the Twlight Singers or Gutter Twins tour, and he sang like he was channelling Al Green and Wilson Pickett. By the fucking gods, there were moments when he hit a note and held it at the perfect point, whether he wanted to break your heart or heal it, he did it. Screams that weren't really screams but words that he shoved out with a passion and an intensity, matched to songs that scrape across your life.
Strength, because we were lifted up and above life by beauty and fear and hate, an exorcism in music.
I danced, because there is no better band to dance to, I cried because it hit those points that take me to nights, raddled to the screaming edge when I wanted nothing but the earth to swallow me, I laughed because it was brilliant and an inexpressible joy to be in the same room as this glorious music.
For all the great songs, it wouldn't be much without the band. None of them play like bands are supposed to play. Barre chords and straight 4/4 beats weren't hanging around too much.
Cully and Curley make a drop-dead fantastic rhythm, smooth basslines and thundering tom tom rhythms, McCollum plays lead guitar with a screeching slide and a style like no-one that ever lived, these four men were born to play music together.
The first half of the set was a favourites list, kicking off with "Crime Scene", moving through, among others, "Uptown Again", "Going To Town", "Gentleman", "Crazy", nine songs into the show and I was exhausted and exultant. I'm not the man I was last I danced so much. But there was no way I wouldn't dance, once that rockandroll funky rhythm started, there was no way I could not move to it.
Steve Kilbey wandered out and he's been saving up those moves for 32 years now. He sang like he enjoyed havnig a band behind him with a good grasp on dancing rhythm, he pulled some karate moves that I figured he'd copped from an Elvis concert tape, but the star jumps surprised everyone.
"Excuse me, sir," said Dulli as he hopped off the stage and walked into the crowd for See And Don't See, sat at the piano for "Love Crimes" and picked up the guitar again for the run to the finish capped by "Faded."
They walked off and, we know the ritual, we yell and clap and chant and cheer and the band comes back for an encore that's on the setlist and finished with a superb "Fountain And Fairfax."
I couldsay naught but "Fuck, wow! for a few minutes. But there is little more to say. It was seriously great. The Afghan Whigs are the best band I've ever caught at a show.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the greatest rock and roll band in the world, the AFGHAN WHIGS!!"