Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Afghan Whigs, November 10 at the Fonda

Carla and I were in Hollywood casually celebrating our anniversary on a Saturday night and we ended up doing in one of the best ways possible.  We were trying to get lottery tickets for The Book of Mormon but we didn't get in.  We wandered over for a nice dinner and happened to stroll by the Fonda, where the Afghan Whigs were having their second night.  We saw the show the night before and it was great, why do the second night?  Because they were playing an altered set between nights. And "Miles Iz Dead", or so I read.  Those few different songs were enough for me, at least, and Carla went along.  Besides, seeing them a second time, even if it was the night after the first, would start to help her make up for never seeing them back in the day.  We usually don't rely on scalpers but we were going to make the attempt and see what we come up with, and if we couldn't find anything then we would head back home and be none the worse off.  As it turns out, there was one sole scalper left since it was so late.  With only a few minutes before the show was set to start (as we knew from the night before), he asked us our price.  I knew he was desperate and trying to get anything for the tickets or get nothing, so I offered $40 for both and he couldn't jump on it fast enough.  He even let us have the tickets before we paid for them while I went back to put more money in the meter.  So in we went for the second night of the Whigs, every bit as thrilling as the first.  Very similar, though in my mind I'd like to think that Dulli & co. pushed it just a bit more since it was the last night on the entire tour (save for what he said was a planned New Year's show in Cleveland -- of course we were tempted -- and whatever they were going to do as a band after that).  Absolutely the different songs were worth it.  The show would have been worth a full-price ticket, if we'd planned on it.  (We would usually shy away from making plans for Saturday night.)  I'd even say I preferred the alternate-night's set, just because the first few songs leaned more toward 1969's cuts (not to the inclusion of anything from Gentlemen, the superior work, just that 1969 sounds better live).  And there it was, in the encore (sometimes being aware of their usual set-lists pays off): "Miles Iz Dead," which I had never heard live (along with anything from Congregation or before -- a shame almost as bad as never seeing them before Black Love).  And there I was, a screaming maniac.  And another great show.  Those guys are just made to play live.  This reunion tour seemed like a return, but also taking care of past business, like letting the old-school fans or new fans they've gotten since they broke up see the old stuff, as well as going deeper into their catalog than they had in a while, tying that off so they could either go away permanently again without owing anything, or trudging onward as a band if they chose to stay together or even produce new work.  Dulli still has the Twilight Singers, though from what I could tell he merged both bands for Afghan Whigs 2.0, so the difference is negligible.  And even though I'm always excited for new material from Dulli, in whatever form that may be, it's always the Afghan Whigs that do it for me.  Van Hunt opened but we missed him (again), though he performed with the band.

The Afghan Whigs' set-list:
"Heaven on Their Minds" (from Jesus Christ Superstar)/"Somethin' Hot"
"Blame, etc."
"What Jail Is Like"
"Kiss the Floor"
"When We Two Parted"/"Over My Dead Body"
"Turn On the Water"/"Helter Skelter" (Beatles cover)
"John the Baptist"
"Step Into the Light"
"See and Don't See" (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
"Lovecrimes" (Frank Ocean cover)
"Going to Town"
"Who Do You Love?"/"Fountain and Fairfax"
"Omerta"/"She Loves You"
"The Vampire Lanois"

"My Curse"
"Miles Iz Ded" (with snippet of Kiss's "I Was Made for Lovin' You")
"Into the Floor"

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Afghan Whigs, November 9 at the Fonda

Carla had never seen the Afghan Whigs.  For as much I saw them in the '90s before they broke up, she only became a fan -- and a pretty big one -- when Dulli had already moved on to the Twilight Singers.  It took his newer band a while to get up to the same intensity that the Whigs had, and even then it was sporadic, and certainly the first Twilight Singers album was a departure from the Whigs last days, but that was probably the point.  To make a connection between the two bands was an iffy proposition at best.  I've dug the Twilight Singers, and seen them on most of their tours, but it's always been about the Whigs for me.  And I was actually fine that they broke up.  They had taken a great shot and they got close to the big time with Gentlemen, but as hard as they tried after that, once the alt-rock tide left, they just couldn't get back or beyond it again.  Even 1969, a stupendous effort that approached Gentlemen, got no traction and they were left to tour like dogs to diminishing returns.  Couple that with Dulli's drug problems and the members growing apart (though there were technically only three of them), it was an easy guess that the band's days were numbered.  Dulli was on to the Twilight Singers, the other two guys easily dropped under the radar, and the Whigs could go out with dignity.  Time went on and they got farther away from their intense, angst-ridden days.  As everyone got older, there was less of a point for them to get back together.  But with nearly every other band that hasn't had an essential member die, they got back together (even after Dulli told me personally that a reunion "ain't gonna happen, dude").  But they chose to tour instead of release new material right away, so even though I knew they weren't what they used to be, we had to go see them.  And that way Carla could finally see them as well.  Indeed, the intensity was mostly missing, but those songs had been worn hard, even at this date, nearly the last on their reunion tour.  Even Dulli played them harder in the encore of the Twilight Singers' second tour (at least for the show at the Troubadour).  They had traded guilt-ridden rage for well-dressed experience, but the songs have stood the time they were away so it still worked.  And Dulli has never been less than a consummate showman, and this, the reunion and the show, was giving the crowd, all maybe older than me, what they wanted.   No small amount can be said about a sober Dulli, which has definitely contributed to the mellowness of the Twilight Singers; the shows back in the day led by a drug-addled Dulli were sloppy but electric, and he plays now more assuredly, if also more reservedly.  Also missing are the spontaneous covers and the rambling, love-him-or-hate-him banter, but he left that behind after the band stopped anyway.  So it was the old songs played by an older, more thoughtful band, less fun but more controlled and stately.  And the songs still sounded great, no matter who Dulli has in the band, and they even played a few they stopped playing back in the day, like "Gentlemen," since Dulli said it was way too personal back, but that only goes to show that they have such a distance from the songs that they've become just songs to them, not experiences.  Also playing that song came after the slow, dour songs section of the night, and the transition was wrenching and hard to get into the crunch of the later song after being brought low by the ones before it.  There were some sequencing issues there but they had to bring it somehow, I suppose.  They played some gems and it seems that they played one song every night that they hadn't played in the other shows.  I would have preferred the old band, but I've seen them a few times over.  Carla didn't get to see one of those shows but at least she could hear the songs.  Cid and Jon also went to the show and we made the effort to be together but they had balcony seats and we had floor tickets, and the Fonda still keeps the two separate.  Except for a few minor switches here and there, they were doing two different shows in places where they played two nights, each with similar middles, but different openings and different encores.  This was the show where they didn't play "Miles Iz Ded".  Van Hunt opened the show and we missed him, except for the parts, of course, where he played with the band.

The Afghan Whigs' set-list:
"Crime Scene, Part One"
"I'm Her Slave"
"Uptown Again"
"What Jail Is Like"
"Conjure Me"
"When We Two Parted"/"Dead Body"
"My Enemy"
"Son of the South"
"See and Don't See" (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover)
"Lovecrimes" (Frank Ocean cover)
"Wicked Games" (The Weeknd cover)
"Mean Sleep" (Van Hunt cover; with Van Hunt)
"Let's Stay Together"/"66"/"Little Red Corvette" (Prince cover)
"Fountain and Fairfax"

"Summer's Kiss"
"Faded"/"Purple Rain" (Prince cover)