Debonair and shrouded in shadows, The Afghan Whigs brought noir flavor to life at Union Transfer
Philadelphia redeemed itself Friday night. The last time The Afghan Whigs played a full show in Philly, in September 2012 at the Electric Factory, the crowd was sparse and sad, especially compared to a raucous, solidly sold-out show at New York City’s Terminal 5. Greg Dulli and company played their shortest set on that tour date and no encore. The City of Brotherly Love did not disappoint on this go-round, as 1,000 or so music fans showed their appreciation for the debonair gentlemen during their 20-song rock show at Union Transfer. (Note: The crowd at that Factory gig was probably also 1,000, but spread thinly around the 3,500-cap venue. -ed.) From the opening notes of “Parked Outside,” the lead track on 2014’s Do to the Beast, the sweaty love affair fans have with The Afghan Whigs was in full flower.
Shrouded in mostly shadows, The Afghan Whigs brought their noir flavor to life. Dulli, with his trademark seatbelt guitar strap, was as fierce as ever. The combination of their song “I Am Fire” with Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” is the band at its most bombastic. Illuminated by red light, Dulli pointed a drumstick to the crowd and pounded away with a percussive fury. It is rock that shakes you to the core.
“Debonair” bristled and “Algiers” stung the ears. John Curley rattled his bass and Cully Symington erupted on drums. And the always welcome vocals and dance moves of Steve Myers were a treat on songs like the encore’s “Going to Town.”
The synthesis of soul and rock from a bygone era with a breath of fire and debauchery is The Afghan Whigs’ signature. Philadelphia clapped, sang along to and lived this artistic creation to the fullest and showed Dulli and company how welcome they are and how much they cannot wait for their return.
Joseph Arthur — an Ohio native, like The Afghan Whigs — opened the show. Playing solo, he dipped into The Ballad of Boogie Christ and older works. In addition, he played The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” as he did on his Lou Reed cover album, Lou. Backed by pulsating lights, it was a brilliant rendition. Arthur showed off his visual artist skills during his evocative “I Miss the Zoo” as he drew and painted on stage. He also joined The Afghan Whigs for their song “Can Rova.”
Fountain and Fairfax
Step Into the Light
I Am Fire / Tusk (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Morning Theft (Jeff Buckley cover) / It Kills
Can Rova (with Joseph Arthur)
John the Baptist
Son of the South
Lost in the Woods / Getting Better (The Beatles cover)
Heaven on Their Minds (Jesus Christ Superstar cover) / Somethin’ Hot
Going to Town
Across 110th Street (Bobby Womack cover) / Faded