There are bands who re-unite, do the tour, trot out the hits and never release any new material. There are bands who reunite, record an average new album and slavishly play all of the new album and none of the hits. Then there are bands like The Afghan Whigs, who upon calling it a day in 2001, got back together sporadically from 2006 onwards, and returned properly to the fray in 2014, with the excellent Do It To The Beast. Actively touring and recording and happily mixing old songs with new, each one sitting alongside the other in perfect musical symmetry. Bands who seem to do it for the love of the music, not for the love of the money.
Tonight, the Academy is host to a band who, according to frontman Greg Dulli, haven’t played a show since November and are “still shaking the rust off a little bit”. Arriving on stage at 9 o’clock and taking some people by surprise with the early start, they unceremoniously blow the Monday cobwebs away immediately with the muscular, menacing and frankly downright groovy ‘Parked Outside’ and ‘Matamoros’ from their 2014 album. Following it up with 1994’s ‘Fountain and Fairfax’, the band roll the years all the way back with consummate ease. Chopping and changing from past to current material, it is clear that they are enjoying the show. You don’t have to wonder too much if the audience are enjoying the show as the words are being screamed back towards the stage at great volume. The atmosphere is positively crackling with the collective heady reminiscences of the good old 90’s coupled with the raw energy and power of their most recent material.
Mid 90’s classics ‘Debonair’ and ‘Gentleman’ are greeted with a knowing applause as early as the first chords. Dulli switches effortlessly from guitar to piano and occasional battering of a floor tom. He doesn’t say much save for a few choice anecdotes but when he talks the audience listens. He adlibs other songs in at the start of and end of their own tunes, a couple of lines from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ here, a cover of Bobby Womacks ‘Across 110th Street’ there, ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and a masterful segue from ‘Lost in the woods’ into ‘Getting Better’ by the Beatles. All these snippets are well chosen and serve the music well and also serve to show us some of the bands influences, indeed before one particularly explosive solo in ‘Algiers’ Dulli implores the band to play a little bit of Crazy Horse.
The band leave the stage but come back out pretty soon after, following a brief monologue about what an encore means at gigs. “It means go fucking crazy for the band”, Dulli whips the crowd into a frenzy of whooping and cheering and then the band re-emerge for a three song encore which seems to go on for ages. They play for almost two hours, we even get a Twilight Singers track, ‘Teenage Wristband’. They haven’t played everything in their back catalogue, leaving out some choice cuts along the way, but they gave it a damn good try.