In the afterglow of The Afghan Whigs first show in 13 years, fans lingered outside the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday, still buzzing from the two-hour, roller coaster of memories. Some swapped stories, others dragged on cigarettes, all of them beaming from ear to ear. When bassist John Curley and guitarist Rick McCollum wandered out, fans circled the band members, expressed their appreciation and a round of "I saw you in (insert city)" commenced.
"I saw you in Jersey on the 1965 tour," said one fan to Curley. "I saw you in Chicago," another said to McCollum. I was jealous. My "I saw you..." moment was an "I was supposed to see you..." moment. "In Dallas in '99," I said to Curley.
Anyone versed in the Whigs history know they never made it to that show and the band called it quits before they made it back. So, when Greg Dulli crooned "I waited long, the waiting's over," during "Bulletproof," it probably resonated a lot more with me than most of the sold-out crowd who already had their live moment over a decade ago. And the Whigs did not disappoint. They weren't as advertised - they were better. There was never a chance Dulli would get the Whigs back together only for them to fall flat.
A 20-song set with two encores spanned most of the Whigs catalog, but was focused mainly on the last three records: 1965, Black Love, and the critically acclaimed Gentlemen.
Early on, they dipped all the way back to Congregation for "I'm Her Slave" which they performed the night before on Jimmy Fallon. Dulli thanked Sub Pop records pioneers Megan Jasper and Jonathan Poneman more than once on the night for giving the band a shot (as well as making them the first non-Pacific Northwest band to sign to the label.)
Dulli trash-talked a heckler during one of those shout outs, describing in graphic detail what he would do to him if he dared step foot on stage. "Did I kiss your girlfriend?" Dulli asked, before adding an insincere "I'm sorry."
And that bravado permeates the Whigs catalog, in songs like the bruising "Fountain and Fairfax" during the first encore and "Debonair." "Tonight I go to hell for what I've done to you / But this ain't about regret" Dulli screamed on the latter.
As much as the night was about celebrating the past and screaming along to "Crime Scene Part One" or "66" (or pretty much any song they played on Wednesday) it was more about reveling in the reformation and hopefully the prolonged second act of The Afghan Whigs.
The Afghan Whigs will be playing much bigger venues when they return to the NYC area. In addition to Duuli currating this year's ATP I'll Be Your Mirror in Asbury Park, NJ in September (tickets are still available), and then will play a sold-out Terminal 5 show October 5.
More pics of Afghan Whigs' Bowery show (including opener Joseph Arthur) and setlist are below.
The Afghan Whigs