The Afghan Whigs still loud and (almost) clear

With a reformed lineup, the US band was still able to make the Kraków audience feel it’s the middle of the roaring nineties.

The 1990’s must have been a decade of mixed feelings for Greg Dulli, the core member of the group. Even though The Afghan Whigs succeeded considerably in gaining critics’ appeal and signed with the influential Sub Pop label, they disbanded after failing to achieve a mainstream breakthrough. Even so, the band’s extraordinary combination of soul and alternative rock attracted devoted fans in the US and worldwide. For this reason, a tour announced after their reunion and the release of their seventh album – Do to the Beast – sold out in clubs all over Europe.

The gig in Kraków on the 14th February was no exception. The concert venue was Fabryka club, located in an area full of old warehouses and factories which had their glory days during the times of real socialism. It came as a surprise, given its close proximity to the affluent districts of Kraków and the Vistula river. And there was yet another surprise – despite the club looking small from the outside, its main concert hall was massive and spacious, which boded well for the gig.

Indeed, from the very beginning the band’s performance reflected the size of the hall. The band electrified the crowd starting with the heavy and sharp sounds of drums and electric guitars in Parked Outside. It was only after the fifth song that a pause came and Greg Dulli thanked the audience for coming, his voice being as clear and magnetic as during the whole concert.

As had been expected because of their musical eclecticism, the band used an impressive range of instruments and played songs not only from their own repertoire. Keyboards, violins and trumpets enriched the band’s performance and gave it this familiar feel one can get when listening to their studio albums. Snippets and covers of The Beatles, Jeff Buckley or Fleetwood Mac exposed the group’s musical roots. One of these roots was also the late Bobby Womack, to whom Greg Dulli paid an emotional tribute before one of the songs: “The last time we were in Poland, at Opener Festival, one of my greatest musical inspirations passed away. This is a song for him”.

Still, there was some room for improvements. While the band’s loudness swept the crowd off their feet at the beginning, after some time it wore them out. What is worse, the heavy sounds of electric and bass guitars put the rest of the instruments aside, so the richness of the sound was lost. Fortunately for the audience’s ears, the group’s technician bent over backwards helping in giving earplugs to the front rows, which helped in listening to the music instead of deafening noise.

Greg Dulli’s gloomy and often misogynistic lyrics make fans think that he must be a public nuisance. The concert proved otherwise. His contact with the rest of the band and the audience was phenomenal – playful comments between the songs made everyone smile, while a spontaneous meet and greet after the gig showed that Dulli’s real self is a far cry from his lyrics. That is why, if a music fan wants to experience a unique mix of convivial and electric atmosphere, The Afghan Whigs’ concert is highly recommended.

Piotr N.

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