The recent reformation of The Afghan Whigs proves a simple story, really. It was not precipitated by financial urgency, a need to cash in on some recent cover smash, or a made-for-TV movie deal; instead, it’s all about three musicians who want to hit the stage together again. While every band reunion carries its share of nostalgic currency, an Afghan Whigs concert tour in 2012 – neatly timed to hit 25 years after their first live show in 1987 – promises to be a most unpredictable and contemporary experience. Then again, those were always the Whigs’ defining qualities, along with a reputation as one of rock’s most cathartic, powerful concert outfits. “I’d been asked about a reunion so many times over the years, and I kept saying no,” says Greg Dulli, Afghan Whigs’ frontman and chief songwriter. “I finally had to ask myself, ‘Well, why not?’”
Formed in Cincinnati in 1986 by the core trio of Curley, Dulli, and McCollum, The Afghan Whigs began with an almost preternatural chemistry. The group’s combination of sheer volume, audacious personality, gritty soul immediacy, and swinging musical chops proved auspiciously rare in that moment of American indie culture, propelling them to the top tier of Cincinnati’s music scene almost immediately. Mining urgent desire and will power, the Whigs started to venture outside their Midwest confines on a series of shoestring tours, eventually catching the attention of a small, fledgling label out of Seattle called Sub Pop. Sub Pop signed the Whigs in 1989, releasing the band’s debut album, Up In It, one year later.
That outsider status didn’t stop them from becoming a crucial cog in the ‘90s legendary alternative-rock juggernaut, however. Indeed, The Afghan Whigs won over fans town by town with their idiosyncratic fervor. The 1992 release of their second full-length Sub Pop album, Congregation, however, provided the first real glimpse of the potential behind the Whigs’ bleeding ambition.
The underground couldn’t contain The Whigs’ growing stature, however. In the wake of a contract with Elektra Records, the band released its first major-label effort, Gentlemen, in 1993. A deeply personal opus exploring the brutal rise and fall of a doomed love affair, Gentlemen would prove to be the band’s critical breakthrough, appearing on numerous year-end “best of” lists. Since its release, Gentlemen has grown to be considered one of the greatest albums of its era: SPIN placed it among its “Top 100 Albums from 1985-2005,” while Alternative Press ranked it #14 on its “Greatest Albums of the ‘90s.”
Followed by 1996’s Black Love, and 1965 (the band’s final album together), the Afghan Whigs story remained somewhat open ended. The core three members remained friends and stayed in touch, and in 2006 briefly reunited to record two new songs for Rhino Records’ Afghan Whigs career retrospective Unbreakable. That action stoked renewed hope for further activity, which went unfounded until recently: in December 2011, the band announced that it would be appearing at All Tomorrow’s Parties’ renowned I’ll Be Your Mirror festival in London.
These developments provided both surprise and relief for the group’s members. “The pressure is really nonexistent, because we’re playing songs that we’ve already completed – that we already know,” Dulli says. “Those songs still resonate with me; in fact, they have always resonated with me. I imagine there will be people who never saw the band before, too, and that’s exciting.” “It will be nice to experience the Whigs again as a grown-up,” jokes Curley. “In my mind, the Whigs were a live band above anything else. Playing shows always was our favourite part about being in the band, and the times when we felt the most freedom and release. I missed playing at that level; I missed playing the songs that we wrote, that meant so much to people – and to us.”
Tickets for this event are available from the venue box office, and can be purchased at face value if payment is made in cash. Please note promoters may increase ticket price if purchased on the night. This event is 14+ with unders 16s accompanied by an adult.