RS Concert Review
9:30 Club, April 10, 1994
The theme is love, the tone is dark, the guitars impressively sonorous. Such is the nature of an Afghan Whigs gig, the end result being both alienating and compelling. While the mosh pit this night was relatively tame, the Whigs still offered a tight, expressive set, leaving a hazy-eyed house damn stirred.
Charismatic frontman-guitarist Greg Dulli sauntered around the stage, looking more like an Ivy League art student than a graduate of the Sub Pop grunge club. He screamed through the brutally candid “Gentlemen,” the title track to the Whigs’ major-lab el debut, while lead guitarist Rick McCollum and drummer Steve Earle supplied the assaultive force that makes the Whigs’ music both moving and eerie.
Equally menacing was “Conjure Me” (from their second Sup Pop release, Congregation ), with Dulli biting off his lyrics with irony and playing the role of a spiteful adolescent intending “to turn on you before you turn on me.” But some of the Whigs’ more sinister moments came in the guise of love ballads- the melodies would draw the crowd in, and just as it hoped to be appeased, Dulli would drop lines like “You’re saying that the victim doesn’t want it to end/ Good/ I get to dress up and play the assassin again” (from Gentlemen ‘s “When We Two Parted”).
Toward the end of the show, the Whigs covered Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and the Supremes’ “My World is Empty Without You,” transforming the songs with edgy guitar work to the point where only the lyrics were recognizable. You’d never know the Supreme s could sound so contemporary. And it all fit.
Seven years and four albums into it, the Whigs are getting good at making us feel umcomfortable, which is precisely why they are so good live.