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Concert Direct – CMJ Review

Afghan Whigs
CMJ Music Festival in New York City
November 4, 1998
Written by Kirsten Hansen

Smoking a cigarette and wearing his darkest shades, Greg Dulli and his Afghan Whigs swept onto the Bowery Ballroom stage to a 70’s funk fanfare provided by his newest find, the Royal Orleans Review. Dulli wore his attitude as comfortably as he did his black fedora and leather jacket. The opening rhythms of the Temptations’ classic “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” played as the whisky-throated Dulli sauntered to the microphone and whispered “Didja miss me?” The crowd erupted and the band slipped into an excellent version of “Blame” from their last release Black Love, on Elektra Records.

What followed was a passion filled set of their more recent tunes, concentrating on their last three records Gentlemen, Black Love and their most recent collection, 1965. The new record’s opening track “Something Hot” was up next and lead easily into “Go To Town” and “Neglekted”. You could tell the band was eager to please the loyal crowd. Their scheduled set time was midnight and some of the crowd was getting a bit restless, but they surged with energy when the jangly guitar riff of Rick McCollum and John Curley’s walking base line opening of “Debonair” filled the crowded, smoke filled room. “When We Two Parted” was begun by the spoken “Dearly Beloved…” beginning to Prince’s “Purple Rain” and then proceeded to build to a fervent crescendo that surpassed even the emotionally swollen album version.

The sultry and sad “My Curse” was performed tonight by the awesome vocalist, Susan Marshall. She wrapped herself around Dulli’s lyrics with such feeling and wisdom that she sounded as if she wrote the words herself. While Susan commanded most of the attention in the room, a small crowd of us got to see Mr. Dulli slip out of the side door and into the audience to say hello to some of his family and friends who were there for this, the kick off show of their tour to support 1965. By the time Marshall was basking in the sound of her much due applause, Greg was back on stage having yet another drink and proceeded to lead the band in a rocking version of “Uptown Again” and “What Jail Is Like”.

After a sexy rendition of “66”, Dulli introduced us to his new accomplices in the Royal Orleans Review and then wow-ed us with “Fountain and Fairfax”. The set ended with a slow and building “Faded”, that left everyone in the venue cheering for more.

After a few minutes to recover, the band made their way back to the stage for their encore. The boys teased us with some old time area rock classics with snippets from Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” and a Black Sabbath song. “If I Were Going” and “St. John The Baptist” were performed with real depth and sensuality. The entire band was having fun playing and it showed. They joked to drummer Michael Horrigan about finding his replacement if he didn’t keep up. They have obviously missed being on tour quite a bit. They played each tune with an intensity that was truly inspired.

After a cover of “Papa Was A Rascal” and a song from Dulli’s dabbling with the Twilight Swingers, tonight’s show was ended with a somewhat intoxicated version of 1965’s “Omerta” that had the singer stage diving, not once, not twice, but three times into the now exhausted crowd. After the third time, a man who looked like the building manager took it upon himself to thank us for coming and left the stage with Dulli still locked in his audience’s embrace.

It was now 3am and no one wanted to go home.

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