Germany ’99 Review

Afghan Whigs
De Oosterpoort, Groningen, March 20th + Soundgarden, Dortmund, April 4th 1999

Luna Kafe

When the Whigs take to the stage at the Ooosterpoort, it’s just the core four Whigs – Greg Dulli, Rick McCollum, John Curley and new drummer Michael Horrigan. And without even saying hello they launch right into Retarded, the first song off their very first LP, released almost ten years ago. It’s loud, fast and quite spectacular. It’s nothing against the full-on, revelatory rock ‘n’ soul revue that goes on it’s way as soon as the three backup singers and a keyboardist apparently nicked from Prince’s backing band join the Whigs for the rest of the show.

Once described as “sex muzik”, this music blends rock ‘n’ roll in it’s rawest form with sweet soul music so perfectly, it almost hurts. And then there are the songs, that prove once and for all that Dulli might not be a great singer (nor guitarist, for that matter) but he surely knows how to write songs. Songs about fucked-up lifes, about the demons in yourself, about luuuuv, baby! The Whigs play everything from What Jail Is Like to Uptown Again and Be Sweet. Hell, in Dortmund they even do White Trash Party, from Up In It, just “because it is Easter Sunday”, as Dulli informed the crowd. He also wins some new friends with his statement concerning the less than enthusiastic festival crowd in Dortmund: “Okay, so I’m in a fucking library”. Haha, very funny. But by the time their rendition of the Temptations’ Papa Was A Rolling Stone literally explodes to segue right into Somethin’ Hot you give up on wondering if any other band could actually steal its inspiration from so many different sources without sounding like any of them. Cause the Whigs have their own distinctive sound and even the heartbreakingly beautiful gospel rendition of My Curse, sung by backing vocalist Susan Marshall, fits in perfectly.

By the time they hit home with Fountain And Fairfax (about ten times better – and faster! – than the recorded version) and Faded you know that this equivalent of a musical orgasm is bound to reach a lot more people soon. People who don’t care that Dulli and crew have been signed to Sup Pop for a while, got big during the Grunge boom and sounded a little bit like Nirvana. After the last note of the final encore Omerta you know exactly why Rick McCollum calls this “a rebirth” for the Whigs. Quite simply because it is.

Copyright 1999 Carsten Wohlfeld

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