For avid concert-goers, there are shows that are enjoyable but unremarkable, those that are remembered for the wrong reasons and others that will stick with you forever. When a band puts on a show that’s forever burned into your memory, you see them every chance you get. Since the early ’90s, The Afghan Whigs have been that band.
They officially broke up in 2001 but lead singer/songwriter’s Greg Dulli’s side project, The Twilight Singers continually evolved. A host of musicians including Ani DiFranco, Petra Haden, Apollonia and the late, great Mark Lanegan all contributed to Twilight Singers albums. A core band was formed, recording and touring 2003-2011 and during those years, The Twilight Singers were a force of nature live. If you haven’t already, check out 2011’s Live in New York. In 2012, The Afghan Whigs officially reformed and launched a reunion tour.
This Fall, The Afghan Whigs are on tour for their ninth studio album, How Do You Burn?, bringing a stellar band led by original founders Greg Dulli and bassist John Curley. Their Brooklyn Steel show was the band’s first in NYC since 2018. The guys hit the stage with the sultry slow-burn of “Jiya” before launching into full metal mode with “I’ll Make You See God”, both from the new album. As a bonus, they had the triple guitar power of Dulli, new member Christopher Thorn and a special appearance by long-time Whigs lead guitarist Jon Skibic (who isn’t touring this year).
The vibe shifted with “Matamoros” from 2014’s Do To The Beast. Patrick Keeler kept the rhythmic dance beat alive while multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, affectionally known as the band’s “Swiss Army Knife” provided the come-hither violin melody. A string of tracks from 2017’s In Spades including the hauntingly beautiful “Oriole” followed.
Then, the trifecta of Gentlemen-era songs – “Gentlemen”, “What Jail is Like” and “Fountain & Fairfax”. This is where Greg Dulli can reach back into the biting tales of remorse and self-destruction he wrote almost 30 years ago, yet is miraculously here to perform today. The audience is there for every word, bursting in unison to shout the name of the L.A. intersection where the messed up protagonist will still be waiting.
A welcome nod to The Twilight Singers came with a full-throttle version of “Teenage Wristband”. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Heaven on Their Minds” from Jesus Christ Superstar segued into 1965’s “Something Hot”, with Steve Myers joining on stage to recreate the song’s original soulful vocal flourishes.
In lieu of a traditional encore, the band offered a “bonus round” which didn’t require leaving the stage, only to return a few minutes later. “My Enemy” from 1996’s Black Love was the powerful kick off before toning down into the melodic, introspective “Into The Floor” closing with a few choice lines from The Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”.
The Afghan Whigs are still as dynamic as ever.
All Photos: Deb Johnsen