Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vanquishing Indecision: Afghan Whigs at Fonda

09 NOVEMBER, 2012 
What a difference a night makes.  Strictly in terms of age, compared to the Japandroids show the previous evening, let's say it skewed a little grayer.  The atmosphere, however, was more electric.  The time had come.  What started as a far away echo, was now made manifest, in the flesh.  The Afghan Whigs were back in business.
L.A. soul man Van Hunt opened the night.  He's put in a lot of miles, and manages the tricky combination of keeping it old school, yet having big ears and covering a lot of ground.  He would later make an appearance during the main set.
The 90's being somewhat of a blur, I'm still scratching my head, trying to figure out how I missed them the first time around.  It was comforting to finally lay that particular ghost to rest.  Head honcho Greg Dulli was in full BAMF mode, and the band, including original members John Curley and Rick McCollum, was fit and in fighting form.  The first night of a two night stand at the Fonda Theatre drew off of their core LP's of Gentleman, Black Love, and 1965.  Interestingly, the set was book ended with the first and last songs from Black Love, recreating the desperate journey that was that album, perhaps their finest hour.  From the opening of "Crime Scene, Pt. I", any questions about Dulli's voice, intensity, or the rest of the band were settled.  The old formula of heavy rock shot through with a dose of soul that stood out starkly in the days of grunge, now fits like a comfortable old coat, such has their influence wormed onto successive generations.  That they've never turned up on a Tarantino soundtrack was always a mystery to me.
Jumping into "I'm Her Slave" from their Sub Pop album Congregation, and following it with "Uptown Again" from their final (to this point) work, 1965, gave a quick band history lesson and delineated what was to come.  Another treat was "Magazine", cut in 2006 for a greatest hits CD.  The one/two punch of "My Enemy" and "Son Of The South" drove the intensity level through the roof, and provided a coda for the first half of the show.

This year saw them release two new performances of cover songs, both of which held position of pride in the set.  "See And Don't See", an obscure soul gem by Marie Lyons prompted a walkabout into the audience from Dulli.  He moved over to piano for a stirring take on "Love Crimes", (done originally by current soul iconoclast Frank Ocean), then moved slyly into The Weeknd's "Wicked Games".  When the band kicked in halfway through, it elevated into one of the night's highlights.
Opener Van Hunt came out to join the proceedings for "Mean Sleep", and then a snippet of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" led the set back into Afghan Whigs territory for a raveup on "66".  The regular set drew to a close with a racked but triumphant "Fountain and Fairfax", a fact not lost on the rabid local denizens.
For the encore, the band essayed the last three songs from Black Love, with each song taking things higher.  "Bulletproof" and "Summer's Kiss" were the setup for the pentultimate band anthem, "Faded", which neatly segued into the soaring coda of Prince's "Purple Rain", a perfect capper for the evening, and the house lights coming up seemed besides the point.  There was just no topping that.
01 “Crime Scene Pt. 1″
02 “I’m Her Slave”
03 “Uptown Again”
04 “What Jail Is Like”
05 “Conjure Me”
06 “When We Two Parted/Dead Body”
07 “Gentlemen”
08 “Debonair”
09 “Magazine”
10 “My Enemy”
11 “Son Of The South”
12 “See and Don’t See”
13 “Lovecrimes”
14 “Wicked Games”
15 “Mean Sleep”
16 “66″
17 “Fountain And Fairfax”
18 “Bulletproof”
19 “Summer’s Kiss”
20 “Faded”


  1. Awesome show. Five songs from Black Love that night. What an underrated album. My only regret is that I didn't hear two of my favorites, "My Curse" (which they apparently did the follwonig night), and "Honkey's Ladder," although I'm not sure how well that one would have fit into the set list. "Mean Sleep" made me a Van Hunt fan.

    1. Don't believe in Bucket Lists, but that was one right there. With you on "Honkey's Ladder"...Got to see Van Hunt on his first LP years ago, glad he's stuck with it. Talented cat.

  2. Was there and it was amazing. Love the Black Love suite to close out the night. Agree there was no topping that.

  3. Awesome! Really regretting not doing night 2 as well, but very happy i finally got to see them. They all looked physically great, too. I was happy to see that. Thanks for stopping by!