The Afghan Whigs
The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta • February 26, 1999
After much delay and wondering if they would ever make it back in-town, the Afghan Whigs made an appearance at The Variety Playhouse. For those who may not be aware, Greg Dulli, the boisterous leader of the group, was involved in an altercation after a sold out show in Austin that left him seriously injured. There are many rumors about the incidents that led up to this, and what happened after the fight. The band so far has declined to comment about the whole situation. The important thing is that they are back on the road again promoting their new album 1965 , released on Columbia Records.
1965 is a year that probably doesn’t mean a lot to the majority of Whigs fans. For Greg Dulli and John Curley, the subdued bass player, it’s the year they were born. The intention for naming their new album 1965 was to examine were they came from as people and musicians. That’s exactly what the Afghan Whigs try to achieve when they perform in front of a packed house, too.
Once a few technical problems were solved, The Whigs came out of the starting gate rocking with the first single off the new album, “Uptown Again.” Always playing the role of the Alpha male, Dulli knows how to control the flow of the show, and uses it to his advantage, always taunting and teasing the audience. “Let’s pretend that I am the dealer. What I says goes,” Dulli interjects. “If I say that we are going to play 7 card stud, then we’re going to play 7 card stud all night if I feel like it.” Throughout the concert Dulli would throw out those jabs like he was a boxer in a prize fight. He was in complete control except when he would drop his guard and show his weakness. Dulli unmistakably was more subdued than normal. Judging from his actions and demeanor on stage, Dulli has definitely learned something from the fight in Austin.
On the other hand, there were moments when he was in complete control, leading the band through some of their darker songs like “Blame Inc.,” “What Jail is Like,” and “Fountain and Fairfax.” 1965 is assuredly the most accessible, audience-friendly material the Whigs have written. This was completely evident in how well each song translated in the live atmosphere. They did have some extra help from a crew of back up singers, a bongo player, and a keyboard player, who are also featured on the album. Without this addition, the overall show might have been left dramatically flat.
Coming out for the encore dressed up in a black feather boa, dark sunglasses and black hat, the audience finally realizes the full potential of Dulli’s attitude, cockiness, and overall stage presence. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. This didn’t stop the audience from enjoying some of the more interesting themes explored in the next set of songs. They played “Citi Soleli,” leading into a rousing rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” Closing things out were the last songs on the album, “Omerta” and “The Vampire Lanois.” It may not have been the Afghan Whigs’ best performance, but it was able to showcase the depth of the bands musical ability and talent for writing sophisticated, well crafted songs about love, deceit, betrayal, and forgiveness hidden beneath a hard exterior.