Certain bands inspire fervent devotion from their fans, and the Afghan Whigs definitely fall into this category. Last Friday, they rolled into the Paradise Rock Club in Boston for a sold-out show on the first leg of their tour supporting Do To the Beast, the first Whigs album in 16 years. The band swung through Boston in 2012 on a reunion tour, but played the larger House of Blues; this time around, they wisely played a venue better suited to their communal performances. Indeed, the 'Dise was where I saw them back in the day for the Gentlemen ('94) and 1965 ('98) tours.
It was a rainy night and doors opened 45 minutes late, but the crowd was fired up. After a short but stirring opening set from erstwhile Puscifer singer Carina Round, Dulli and the reconstituted Whigs (founding member John Curley is the only returning member from the original lineup; the band also included Dulli's Twilight Singers sidemen Dave Rosser on guitar and Cully Symington on drums, guitarist Jon Skibic and multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson) launched into the bracing "Parked Outside," the lead track from Do To the Beast.
Dulli was his usual electrifying, abrasive self, taking a few moments here and there to chastise the bonehead who kept blinding him with a camera flash and later telling the doofus next to me who was recording the entire show to put his camera away. But for the most part, he was at the top of his game as he led the band through a set that featured seven of the 10 songs on the new album with older classics sprinkled throughout: "I"m Her Slave" and "Miles is Ded" from 1992's Congregation, "Fountain and Fairfax" and "Gentlemen" from 1993's Gentlemen, "Going to Town," Crime Scene, Part One," "Faded" and "My Enemy" from 1996's Black Love and "Somethin' Hot" and "Uptown Again" from 1998's 1965. And of course, the band provided some interesting covers: a snippet of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" was woven into "I Am Fire" from the new album, the Twilight Singers' "On the Corner" and a rocking minute or so of "Heaven on Their Minds" from the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, which led off the encore and rolled into "Somethin' Hot."
The new material held up well in the live setting. It's an excellent album and even though it's not the same lineup that played on the classics Whigs albums, it's worthy of the high bar set by Dulli and co. on those '90s releases.
This was the second-to-last show before the Afghan Whigs headed to South America for some dates. Dulli mentioned that there was a chance they'd be back in the fall; the recently released fall tour schedule doesn't include a Boston show, but hopefully it will. The band never disappoints.