Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Afghan Whigs Shatter Eardrums, Silence Skeptics

From the strike of the first downbeat last Thursday night, the sound of the Afghan Whigs was so dominating that I felt foolish for having entertained -- even for a moment in the year leading up to their homecoming -- the thought that the band might be overhyped.  I didn't just feel stupid, I felt throughout the performance as though the band was humiliating me for having dared to doubt them. 

Various reviews of last Thursday's show have appeared that have wasted time rehashing tired Afghan Whigs topics like Greg Dulli's stage banter or the band's inexplicable lack of mainstream success.  I don't care about any of that.  What I do care about is what was so incredibly special about what we were hearing last Thursday night -- and what we heard was an extremely loud band that was also extremely musical.

What do I mean by that?

What I mean is there are a lot of loud bands out there.  I have seen loud bands live that were totally horrible (Korn!) and a lot of hardcore and punk bands at basement shows that were as impotent as they were loud.  

What was so remarkable about Thursday's performance was that at times the wall of sound took on the characteristics of a drone.  All sorts of things were swirling through that sound, and by sheer willpower (the equipment was basic and didn't change) the band kept introducing new sounds within that sound deep into the set.  Each of the nearly 20 year-old songs were reborn Thursday night not because of their clever rearrangements but because they were pushed by perfectly tuned guitars through face peeling Mesa/Boogie amplifiers by a group of dudes who know what the f___ they're doing.  

This clip is far from the highlight of the evening (which I think was Going to Town), and doesn't really illustrate what I was just discussing, but it's the best that has been uploaded so far:

I left Bogart's Thursday night not wanting to go out and start a band, but was instead demoralized by the thought that no band I might put together could possibly rock as hard as these guys.  And I was demoralized further by the thought that even if I were to do so, the tastes of the youth have changed so disastrously away from real rock & roll that there could never be a payoff -- certainly not a monetary one -- and little chance of a triumphant moment like what the Afghan Whigs enjoyed last week.