I’ll give owt on Sub Pop a listen. When the team there have brought so much musical talent to the world then its hard to ignore anything on their label. Afghan Whigs are hardly a new band, having begun in Ohio in 1986 and after a ten-year break reforming in 2011. During the nineties on Sub Pop they did amazingly well surrounding by ‘grunge’ bands while they fused alt rock and RnB and soul. Tonight they play the beautiful venue of Church in Leeds, named so because it is an actual church.
Ed Harcourt is here to support the tour, and the English one man band is a treat to watch. Due to Leeds University’s frankly stupid card only payment for parking I miss half of his set due to walking a fair distance for another parking space, but I walk into a huge array of sounds and just one man on stage. The guy loops drum tracks, guitars and bass sounds whilst crooning in a Lanegan part Sinatra style. The crowd are transfixed. Such an epic sound for a solo performance.
Before the band take to the stage, which from the front looks to be on huge girders, a stage man lets us know about the two rules… no flash photography at all (he asks that all mobiles have flash off) and secondly to have fun. Righto chief!
Greg Dulli and John Curley head up the reformed Afghan Whigs, joined by Rick G. Nelson, Jon Skibic and Patrick Keeler. The very sad loss of guitarist Dave Rosser just two months ago has hit the band hard, Dulli especially as he also worked with him on the Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins. They dedicate the tune ‘Can Rova’ tonight to him. A cover of the Pleasure Club’s ‘You Want Love’ also makes the list.
Dulli’s ease with the crowd means he has the odd bit of playful banter with them, dedicating songs to those who travelled from out of Leeds, especially those from the Shetland Islands (jokingly, no one from there is here). He states again about the flash rule, saying it looks like you don’t know what you’re doing if you flash a photo, and also to leave the camera in your pocket and rock out! The song ‘Going To Town’ is written about Bonnie and Clyde ‘I’ll get the car/you get the match/and gasoline’. He stands onstage sipping a spirit, could be a whiskey, telling us that encore is a French word that means ‘lose your shit is you want to hear more music. We’ve played 18 songs for you, we can play more” then beckoning a crescendoing applause works very well. We get four more songs.
The stage guy with the rules, I believe he was called Larry, runs the stage like a well-oiled machine. Dulli plays so many instruments and often sings while switching to guitar so the ducking into the guitar strap without missing a note is like a dance move in itself. Personal favourite was the funky ‘Matamoros’ from the last album ‘Do To The Beast’. A lot of the set features tracks from new release ‘In Spades’, while the furthest the set goes back to is 1996 and ‘Black Love’ for the hits ‘Summer’s Kisses' and ‘Honky Ladder’, another corker. The set finishes with ‘Faded’ as it did on this album as the last song from this era of the band. For a band I have never seen (I have seen The Gutter Twins and Twilight Singers years ago) this was an astonishing gig. The sound in the church, although it has a new El’Acoustic sound system after the venue has had a £200,000 renovation, was too loud and ruined the sound a little (the lead guitar was too sharp in places, the bass too rumbling), but the band were memorising and uplifting. A gorgeous setting for a band its good to finally discover.