Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Epic Weekend - The Afghan Whigs in NYC

This was an Afghan Whigs weekend, which if you've been reading my blog should come as no surprise. After all, my favorite band was playing in NYC - on Friday night in Manhattan and on Saturday night in Brooklyn. There's a long roundabout story as to how I almost didn't go to one show or the other, but as I sit here on Sunday evening I can't imagine having missed either one of the shows.

The venues were very different as were the set lists and as a result I think the fan experience was different too, but the two shows together made for a truly unforgettable weekend.

On Friday, the show was at Terminal 5 with its notoriously bad acoustics that had fans complaining from the moment it was chosen for what was at the time the only NYC concert on the tour schedule. I had never been there, but I must say from the FRONT ROW everything sounded JUST FINE! Friday was anything but a typical day for me. It was October 5 and therefore, exactly 10 months since Joe died. I knew it would be an emotional night and was thankful that so many members of The Congregation would be there at the show too.

American Express Soundcheck Party with Malinda & Melissa
Mother Runners & Congo Members!
The fun on Friday started even before the doors opened for the concert. I survived an emotional drive through the Lincoln Tunnel into the City (very strong memories of taking Joe to his chemo appointments) to arrive in plenty of time for the 5pm American Express AW Soundcheck Party. Now I admit that I don't have an American Express card, but I was fortunate enough to be invited by my Mother Runner/Congregation friend Malinda to attend as her "plus one". The event included a small crowd of serious fans (including many Congregation members), an open bar, delicious food (served by some very attractive young men), and, of course, the Afghan Whigs. Shortly after the soundcheck party I texted a friend calling it "quite possibly the coolest musical thing I've ever been to". I would modify that now to include this whole weekend's experience as my "coolest musical thing".

John Curley on bass during the soundcheck.
The band came out for the soundcheck set relaxed and all smiles. They played 4 songs for the set: 66, Kiss The Floor (they hadn't yet played it live on this tour), Crazy, and Little Darling (Thin Lizzy cover that didn't get played during the show). We watched from the front row and enjoyed every second. Once the set was over, it was time to eat, drink, and hang out until they kicked us out at 7pm. To our surprise (and sheer pleasure) we were joined after the soundcheck set by John Curley (bassist) and Dave Rosser (guitarist) who were more than happy to chat it up and take photos.

With fellow Congo Member Chrissy and bassist John Curley
American Express Soundcheck Party
When we left the venue to wait in the concert line, I was already on Cloud 9. How could this night possibly get any better?

How about front row for Eagles of Death Metal and the most electric set from The Afghan Whigs I had experienced to date? Yes, that happened. I didn't know anything about EODM before they took the stage Friday night, but their live show blew me away. The music was loud and kick ass and the stage show was over the top fun. The lead singer, Boots Electric, worked his ass off and the drummer was literally breaking his drum set up he was going so strong. They were a perfect primer for the Afghan Whigs show that awaited us. It was also cool to notice that even AW were fans of EODM as John Curley came out from behind stage to sneak some photos and Dave Rosser later posted some photos taken of the band from the balcony.
John Curley taking photos of EODM. Very cool.

Boots Electric kills it right in front of us.
By the time AW took the stage, Terminal 5 was packed and it felt like every single person in that place, from the floor to the 3rd level balcony, came with the feeling that this would be one of the best concerts of their lives. The result? The crowd gave it to the band and the band gave it back. It was my first true front row experience for an Afghan Whigs show which made each song that much sweeter.

John Curley (& Cully Symington) in the midst of some kick ass lighting.
Steve Myers dancing (& singing) his ass off at the T5 show.
Love Crimes happening right in front of us at T5
The highlights for me included Turn On The Water which is becoming one of my favorite AW songs and When We Two Parted which Greg dedicated to Renee, a superfan Congo member who was with us at the show in May, but passed away over the summer. It was a powerful show for me personally as song after song reminded me of my Joe and our love story and that overarching 10 months. What I was not ready for though was the intense emotion that overcame me while Greg was singing Faded. It was truly spiritual. It may sound wacky for someone who hasn't had an experience like this, but it was as if Greg, Joe and I were IN that song together. I cried and cried and cried and it felt good. It was the 10 month date. It was the connection Joe & I shared through the AW. And it was this chorus and the passion with which Greg sang it:

This I feel
Behind the blue clouds
I remain concealed
Lord, life me out of the night
Come on, look down
And see the mess I'm in tonight

It was a little shocking to me how deeply I felt that song and Joe's presence during it. I was still stuck in it when the band started their encore with Retarded. 66 snapped me out of it though since it is one of my favorites and also one that brings up warm memories of Joe. It was rocking to hear that whole crowd singing "Don't Forget The Alcohol....Ohhhh Baby, Ohhhh Baby" on Miles Iz Ded and they wrapped the show with Into the Floor, the new, original song they've been playing on this tour. I will never forget how Greg ended the show. After singing Into the Floor, he simply said "you never know..." Profound and thrilling at the same time. If Faded was my theme song for that night, "you never know" became my mantra. (Many of us are hoping "you never know" was a not so subtle hint to what may lie ahead after this tour.)

Once again, how could this night possibly get any better?

How about getting the AW set list that was used by John Curley? Yes, that happened. For the prior 4 AW shows I attended on this tour I had settled for photos of the set list that someone else got to take home. But this time, on this special night, I got my very own. A little cosmic good luck which was much appreciated.
John Curley's Terminal 5 set list & my Soundcheck badge
Surely, that marked the conclusion of an epic night, right? How could it possibly get any better?

Well, how about the conversation I've been waiting for 10 months to have with Greg Dulli actually happening after the concert? Yes, that happened. I'm so glad that fellow Congo Elissa was there and wanted to try catching Greg for a chat after the show. I would have never stayed otherwise. We didn't talk with him long, so as not to keep him from whatever he had planned for the rest of the night, but the time we did spend talking was profoundly meaningful to me. Elissa thanked him for once again dedicating When We Two Parted to Renee and let him know how special it was to those of us who knew her. He shared some of his own thoughts on her passing and the last interaction he had with her. It was that conversation and his openness that made me feel comfortable sharing my own perspective from the evening.

With Greg (obviously) and my friend Cindy (a brand new AW convert!)
I told him that the show tonight was particularly special to me because it was exactly 10 months since my husband had died and he was the one who introduced me to The Afghan Whigs when we were in college. I described to him the intense emotional experience I had during Faded that night and he shared that it wasn't surprising given that he had written that song about a personal loss in his own life. He said it was cool that I was able to connect with the song in that way during the live show and that I felt what he was putting into it. Then, I told him about how Joe and I had chosen the name Domani for our son who was born after Joe's diagnosis. (We actually found out I was pregnant just days before Joe was rushed to the hospital and then told he had Stage IV colon cancer.) It was a Dulli song that made Joe think of the name but it was the meaning and his own Italian heritage that cemented it as the name for our son. Joe's mom has a beautiful post about the little guy's name which captures well why we chose that name and Greg apparently found it equally sweet. He told us that "tomorrow" is the most beautiful word in the English language and he thought it was a moving and hopeful choice. We also talked about the song Domani and how he didn't really remember it when asked about it in an interview, so he went back and listened to it afterwards. The truth is that I can't remember all the details of the conversation, but I do remember how it made me feel on that particular night: peaceful, hopeful, and connected to Joe. It was truly a special moment for me and I'm thankful both for Greg's incredible musical talent and his graciousness to chat with an appreciative fan.

When I finally got home that night (aka the next morning) I remember thinking that there's no way the Brooklyn show could possibly be as amazing as the night I just had. In fact, after a very rough Saturday which included losing Joe's wedding ring which I had been wearing since he died and a mildly traumatic trip to urgent care, I *almost* skipped the show. I'm so glad I braved the "Brooklyn Bridge is closed so 278 is a parking lot" traffic and made it to the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. I would have never forgiven myself had I missed THAT set list in such an intimate venue.

Both opening acts were excellent, but seeing Mighty Fine was something extra special. I'm a big fan of Steve Myers and his dancing (& singing) skills. It's impossible to not have fun when he's on stage. As their set went on I felt the pain and stress of my day just melting away, one song at a time. If you ask me, that's exactly what really great music should do for you.
Mighty Fine rocking out at MHOW on 10/6/12
Once again, the opening bands served as the perfect primer for the epic night that was to come from The Afghan Whigs. The set list from this show... well, let me just say that if I quoted what some folks I know said about it, then I would have to treat this post like that censorship episode of Family Guy. In my opinion, it was the best set list they have played so far on this reunion tour.

I didn't get to take this one home, but a friend of mine did!
The best way I can think of to describe the show at MHOW  is a huge house party with Greg, John, Rick, Dave, Cully, Rick and Steve as the fun-loving hosts. I was lucky enough to find myself perched directly in front of Rick and Dave with my hands resting comfortably on the stage (when they weren't raising the roof anyway). I was joined by Chrissy & Susan, two other Congo members, as we gasped and screamed with joy as the set list was slowly revealed.

There were four HUGE moments for me.

1) BAND OF GOLD. Did you catch earlier how I had lost Joe's wedding ring earlier that day?! HOW DID THE BAND KNOW? Seriously, though, Band of Gold is a favorite song of mine period and the AW cover is pretty much perfect. If I were the panty throwing kind, that song would have made me do it and we weren't even halfway into the show.

2) NEGLEKTED. Since my first show this year at the Bowery Ballroom, I've been itching to hear this song live. It does, after all, contain one of the best Afghan Whigs lines of all time (kids, cover your ears) - "You can fuck my body baby, but please, don't fuck my mind." As if it wasn't enough that the band played this song, Greg chose THIS song to make his way down into the crowd and do some dancing with the ladies. There were plenty of Congo ladies who got some attention from him during this song and I was close enough to sneak a really cool photo.

Hello, Mr. Dulli! Singing Neglekted.

Greg Dulli partying with the crowd at MHOW.

3) CITE SOLEIL. Another one that I was patiently waiting to hear live. Not only did they play it, but Greg went through a story about how the lyrics for the chorus came to be (word for word what a cabbie said to him) and then riled up the audience participation on the chorus to a fever pitch. It was just as electric as the "Fountain & Fairfax" part of Fountain & Fairfax. Of course, it also didn't hurt that he sang a significant portion of the song standing right above us, yielding this fabulous photo.
Cite Soleil at MHOW - 10/6/12
4) The YEAH, YEAH, YEAHS. During the last song of the encore we got Greg Dulli leading the crowd on "She Loves You....Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" resulting in one of the coolest endings to a show I have ever experienced. My favorite part of it though was Rick & Dave coming over to one mike and singing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (and Rick accidentally bumping his guitar into Dave's) and John over at the mike with Greg. They all just seemed so relaxed and like they were having a genuinely good time. In that moment, it felt like they weren't just performing, they were making music. And I love that.
She Loves You....Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
The buzz after the show was that this was the best one yet, which is particularly good news for those of us who still have shows to attend during this tour. They really do just keep getting better and better. Can you all just IMAGINE what the New Years Eve show is going to be like?

Can't forget Cully on drums. This was the 1st concert I had a good
sightline of him - what a treat to watch him play!

Always a special treat whenever Steve Myers joins AW.

I would be remiss in this post if I didn't thank the amazing people who made my Afghan Whigs mania possible this week. My sister Karen and her husband Chris took care of Domani while I jetted off to Toronto on some overnight fangirl craziness (my post on the Toronto show). Joe's mom Lynda and her husband Ross hung out with the little guy while I rocked out in Manhattan (see her post about Domani's time with her here and marvel at how the "tomorrow" theme worked its way into both our lives that day). And, for the epic Saturday night show in Brooklyn, my parents amused Domani with many books and the movie The Princess and the Frog (he LOVES frogs!) I could never fully express my thanks to those who have enabled me to have these life-changing moments with some of the most fun people I know and the band that can send me over the moon with a single chorus.

Before the Brooklyn show, I tweeted: "What a day. Happy to be ending it at church, er, an Afghan Whigs show. Almost the same thing for me these days. #AfghanWhigsLive"

In many ways, these shows have been church for me. It's not always as obvious as my experience with Faded during Friday night's show or the rapturous joy of hearing Band of Gold on Saturday, but man, for me there is always at least a little bit of church up in any Afghan Whigs show.


  1. Anne, what you so effectively conveyed here is joy, excitement, love and passion. What I gained from reading this was an experience and understanding. What I strongly felt was connected.
    Thank you.

    1. I'm so glad you felt connected by reading the post. And thanks again for helping out with Domani. This past weekend was truly special for me.

  2. Anne,
    You write so beautifully about your experiences...thank you so much for sharing with us!

    1. Thanks, Malinda! I just consider myself so blessed to have met you and Melissa and everyone else from The Congregation. You all have been such an encouragement!