buy the afghan whigs in spades

Order The Afghan Whigs'
New Album: In Spades


City: Detroit, MI
Venue: The State Theatre


Review from
Afghan Whigs: 88
Howlin’ Maggie: 65

While a lot of people are striving nowadays to have a sex symbol image in order to sell records, Greg Dulli has it built in naturally. A lot of people I know are in awe of the way he smokes a cigarette, talks to the crowd, and sings soul music like he lives it (a lot of people call him, and this is not a quote from me, “the blackest white man in the world”). Sometimes, however, Greg goes a little overboard on his pre-concert loosening up and the Detroit show on the Afghan Whigs’ “Black Love” world tour was one of these times. Greg has been known to sweat from putting so much emotion into songs but there was a good excuse why it happened so early. Greg Dulli was so drunk for the Detroit show that he stumbled around the stage instead of being his normal sophisticated self. While this didn’t end up detracting that much from the show, it also did not allow the show to live up to its potential.

I think that Greg has begun to like to piss off the crowd with his choice of opening acts. Howlin’ Maggie is his current crowd reiler of choice. In recent times, Howlin’ Maggie has been getting serious airplay on Detroit radio. So much airplay, in fact, that the sponsor of the show was a very unusual 101.1. For those outside of Detroit, 101.1 is a 23-year album rock station who would not play the Afghan Whigs if they decided to become a heavy metal band. This caused the show to sell out and it also brought the hard rockers out in force. However, you would never know that Howlin’ Maggie was what put the show’s attendance over the top because a good majority of the crowd was booing them. Their brand of straight ahead rock mixed with slight experimentation contrasted heavily with their flamboyent lead singer who has been accompanying the Whigs on the road as their keyboardist. Detroit does not take kindly to opening acts ordinarily, but these guys were practically booed off the stage when they asked if they could play another song.

The Afghan Whigs came on stage after a good half-an-hour of setup (which is when Greg was probably putting himself into overcrowding) and immediately kicked into “Retarded”. This was a pleasent surprise since by all accounts, up until this point in the tour they had not played it. In past Afghan Whigs shows, the crowd had chanted for it, but never gotten their way. At this show, the crowd did not even seem to know the older song (off their first Sub Pop release). This may not have been a bad thing since the ordinarily crazy State Theatre crowd remained placid even though this is one of the Whigs’ fastest songs.

But then came the explosion. As soon as the Afghan Whigs blasted into the current MTV-single “Honky’s Ladder” the entire crowd seemed to surge forward and a huge pit opened up. Before you could blink there were multiple people in the air crowd surfing and a lot of mayhem. There has been a lot of talk on the mailing list recently about the violence at Afghan Whigs show and this was no exception.

From there, there was no turning back, the audience would not calm down even when later in the show Greg reprimanded them for crowd surfing to nothing. This was after the somewhat slow, “Going To Town”. In the break inbetween this and “Turn On The Water” someone decided to surf. “What are you crowd surfing to, nothing?” Greg asked. He invited this person up onto the stage and asked, “Why are you doing that, do you do it because you like to or to express yourself?” “Yeah man,” was the idiot’s response. Greg asked him another question. “Yeah man,” was the response again. At this point a whole bunch of other people began to join in. As for myself, I longed for the days when the Afghan Whigs used to play St. Andrew’s Hall. “This is a pretty place,” Greg said early in the show, “but St. Andrew’s is really pretty too.” “How many of you saw us at St. Andrew’s?” he continued. I was deeply embarassed for my city that only about 100 people raised their hand in a huge theatre.

The show was consistently good but there were no real highlights. Ordinarily, the Whigs manage to generate highlights through well placed covers. In the past, these almost seemed as if they were to make fun of music today. The feeling I used to get was the covers were played as if to say, “look, you can play these stupid songs today to any music under the sun.” I get the feeling now that they are just playing them because they’re expected to. They seem to cover songs now out of reverence and now that it’s expected of them. The covers are still very good and certainly not ones which are expected but they lack some sort of punch now.

Another problem was the Afghan Whigs decided to bring along seven members this tour including a keyboardist (Harold of Howlin’ Maggie), a string (violin/viola/cello) player (possibly the only new member who added anything), and of all things, a bongo drummer (which made absolutely no sense). I don’t know why they’re wasting their “hard earned” major label money on all these extra useless players since they were a lot tighter and a lot more high-energy as a compact four piece. Even since the mini-tour last year, the Whigs have begun to drop off in quality. They used to know how to whip a crowd into a frenzy a different way, through grabbing them by the heart-strings and yanking through really good, lush sounding music. Now it seems they do it through cheap thrills. Still the effect was the same and throughout all of the unnecessaries, they still put on one of the best live shows around.

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