Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Afghan Whigs Do It Again

It's been over two weeks. My ears have stopped ringing. The stress of everyday life has long ago interfered with the permanent grin that had taken up residence on my face and there are only 6 days to my next (and last) show on October 28. But I can't imagine ever having a more perfect concert bender than the 4 Afghan Whigs shows in 5 days which started in DC on Wednesday, October 1st and ended in Brooklyn that following Sunday night.

It's got me listening to the Usher songs on my playlist in a completely new way and jamming to No Diggity while I run. It's got me believing in love thanks to Charles Bradley and whispering a daily quiet thanks to Joe for sending me towards the amazing people of The Congregation. It left me tired and with a distinctly raspy voice, but those 5 days come with stories to tell for life.

I had never been to the 9:30 Club in DC and the show there during the 2012 tour was much talked about among my circle of friends so I made buying a ticket for that one this go around a priority. I was not disappointed. It was the first time I heard Step Into The Light live and it was followed by Now You Know, another first for me to hear live. I felt a little bad for my friend who came with me. I was so excited by the end of Now You Know that I'm pretty sure I punched him in the arm. I don't think it was hard, but it WAS the Afghan Whigs playing NOW YOU KNOW, so anything is possible.

A few songs later came the fun surprise of a "No Diggity" intro to Neglekted and then wrapping up the set was the not surprising, but incredibly moving "Getting Better" ending to Lost In the Woods. No matter how many times I have heard it live now (about 4 in person and many more times on the live CD) I can't get through it without there being a little mist in my eyes. There's just something about that full package that cuts deep into me and at a live show I make sure to relish every minute of it. It is, after all, the one thing I tell "newbies" when bringing them to an Afghan Whigs show - pay attention to the way they integrate covers throughout because it's impressive.

There were friends from The Congo to hang out with afterwards and I honestly couldn't have asked for a better night in DC. Little did I know that the shows would only get better from there.

Friday night it was on to Philly with my friend Cindy who had joined me for part of the 2012 "epic" Afghan Whigs weekend and for the "no encore" 2012 Philly show at the Electric Factory. It was time once again for some Afghan Whigs fun and our night in Philly exceeded expectations. We braved a little bit of rain while waiting on line and managed to track down the fabulous people of The Congo once we were inside. Up at the front of the stage there was plenty of time to catch up with each other on life's happenings while waiting for the show to start. We talked about how they played "Now You Know" in Boston and DC. We talked about the "No Diggity" intro and wondered if we would get to hear it again. We talked about whether we would get a damn encore in Philly this time around. We also talked about plenty of non-Afghan Whigs stuff because, well, life.

Then, we were off and running. Joseph Arthur delivered with yet another excellent set. The venue filled up and, unlike two years ago at The Electric Factory, the crowd really seemed ready for an Afghan Whigs show. I always try to get myself up front for at least one show and this was the one. I couldn't have been happier - surrounded by friends with a perfect view of the band. My vantage point also allowed me to watch the band's monitor tech, Ryan, as he rocked out to EVERY song, which was a blast. 

All was perfect until a drunk man decided to push his way towards the stage during Neglekted. Since it can't be properly described, I call this one: Why I love Greg Dulli from No Diggity to kicking out obnoxious drunks in one video.

It features great Dulli quotes such as:
"I know you ain't gonna make me babysit you, motherfucker."
"This is not a negotiation, brother."
"Where was I? I think I know..." And right in to my favorite part of the have to watch it to appreciate it. The video quality is fantastic. And yes, that's me next to the drunk along with the rest of the fabulous ladies of The Congregation. Greg Dulli definitely knows how to keep a party going in spite of the most ridiculous jerks.

Philly was a fun party. We didn't get Now You Know, but when Lost in the Woods rolled around this time we had a great view of Ryan, the monitor tech, joining the band on guitar and we also had his mom standing right next to us who didn't know he would be playing. It was a cool moment. She was sweet and proud and obviously anxious to catch up with him after the show. Someone from among our group told her that Ryan was clearly getting his own little fan club.

When Lost in The Woods was over we cheered our brains out to make sure that the "no encore" fiasco from 2012 was not repeated. Thankfully, our enthusiasm was rewarded and we were not forced to leave encore-less this time around. Cindy and I had rumbling stomachs from not eating dinner before the show and got soaked by the rain walking back to our car, but it was all worth it. Another successful night with the Whigs.

After Philly there were 2 shows left. On Saturday night it was off to the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan to take in The Afghan Whigs from the first row of the lower level balcony. Members of The Congo have been talking for months about what it would be like to see the band in a seated venue - all of us sharing where we would be sitting and hoping that the energy would be strong and that people would stand to enjoy the show. I had only ever seen Greg Dulli in a seated venue once before - at Royal Festival Hall in London in July 2009 when he was touring with Mark Lanegan as The Gutter Twins. I saw that show with Joe since he was traveling there on business and I was able to coordinate a vacation at the same time. We were newly married and cancer was something that happened to other people. It would stay that way for another 6 months.

He took this photo of me as we waited for the show to start, mostly because he wanted me to get off my phone.
He always told me that I paid too much attention to my phone.
He was right.
Then, we staged this photo to remember the moment. HE was the one using his phone by this point (and for the rest of the night since I decided that I was done being harassed about it).

The Gutter Twins, The London Eye, and our beers.
While I admit that it was a bit odd to see Greg Dulli play a seated venue, it wasn't assigned seating (like The Beacon) and it was The Gutter Twins, not The Afghan Whigs. I will always remember that show as one of the best ones for me and Joe so I went in to the night at The Beacon with no qualms about it being a great time. It was NYC, a whole gathering of Congo members, and The Afghan Whigs - a perfect combination. I knew that there would be plenty of friendly faces including my friend Elissa who was making it out to her one and only show that night.

With Elissa outside The Beacon Theatre
So glad she made it to the show!
I have to admit that the real reason I was excited for the show at the Beacon, though, was Charles Bradley. This was the one show on the tour where we would get to see him open for The Whigs. I really like Joseph Arthur who is the regular opener, but I LOVE Charles Bradley. I have dance parties while driving to Charles Bradley. I cry about my past while listening to Charles Bradley. I dream about my future while singing along to Charles Bradley. It's all there. And, hands down, the best part of Saturday night at The Beacon Theatre for me was Charles Bradley.
I haven't been able to find the setlist for Charles Bradley anywhere but it was fantastic. Full of my favorites and while I was in a bit of a daze I'm pretty sure it ended with Lovin' You, Baby which is what finally caused me to send off that tweet once it was all over and I was in a complete state of music euphoria. (By the way, that outfit he is wearing was a COSTUME CHANGE. For the OPENING ACT. And he EARNED IT.) 

I suppose the tweet deserves some explanation. I'm in a bit of a place these days. I realized during this set that dating has left me pretty guarded so that even when I come across someone who could be maybe be real I hesitate and I fall back on that which is more safe. I was grabbed especially by Lovin' You Baby and one line in particular - "no more afraid to open the door and let you in". When I said that I dream about my future while singing along to Charles Bradley, I meant it and Saturday, October 4, 2014 was no different. There was some dreaming and a little opening of the mental door. We'll see where it takes me - and that's all I'm going to say about that.

The long-awaited answer to the "will people stand for The Afghan Whigs at The Beacon" question...YES!
At least on the floor, they will.
After the show there was delicious grilled cheese and tomato and onion rings with awesome people at a diner a few blocks away where we dished about the show and who saw what from which seats. I loved every minute of it, but hated that it had to end. Thankfully, most of us would be back together again in Brooklyn for another round of our favorite band the very next night. Little did we know it would be quite so epic. We would need some sleep.

It was late Sunday afternoon and I found myself running at a much faster pace than I should have been in order to finish my 16 miles in enough time to shower, change, and drive up to Brooklyn. And then, the traffic. Oh, the traffic. I drive this way ALL THE TIME. It's NEVER this bad. Except tonight. ON AFGHAN WHIGS NIGHT. Every muscle in my body was tight and it wasn't from the run. I envisioned abandoning my car in the middle of the BQE and running to the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I actually started doing the calculations in my head. How many miles do I have left to go? What pace do I think I could manage? How much time is left until Joseph Arthur takes the stage? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? 

I will spare you the gory NYC traffic details and just let this be known.... In case you didn't know, God is an Afghan Whigs fan and She made sure that things cleared up just in time for me to catch the 2nd song of Joseph Arthur's set that night. I found my rightful place among my family in The Congregation and we enjoyed what was by far my favorite collection of concert moments to date (I'm beginning to think there is something about October 5th and concerts for me).

There were some surprises thrown in to the setlist including Turn On the Water and We Two Parted - both favorites of mine - as well as a repeat of Now You Know, which was even more exciting to hear in such an intimate venue. Then, as it came around to the end of the show, we were treated to the Whigs' cover of The Police song Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. I have loved this cover since I first heard it and had lost hope of hearing it live. Not only did we hear it, but Greg shuffled his way across the front of the stage while singing it and then came out into the crowd and ended up right smack in the middle of our little group.
If you're up for a little game of "Where's Waldo" it shouldn't be too hard to pick me out. If you can't spot the glow from my huge grin, then look for the black tank top near that bald Jimmy guy :-)

We had no problem getting the guys to come back out for an encore because the crowd at MHOW was energetic to say the least. This encore started out in much the same way the others had up to that point....Going to Town.....Somethin' Hot.....and then, Greg starts talking about the 2012 New Years Eve show in Cincinnati and the SXSW appearance the following year. And then, Climax. With Usher.

It all took just a few extra seconds to register, but there was Mr. Raymond in front of us on stage with The Afghan Whigs at MHOW doing up Climax like it was Austin 2013 all over again. I am realizing now that thankfully I have come much more unglued from my phone during moments like these and snapped only 1 quick photo during the song. (Luckily, it was a good one.) I attribute much of that to "lessons from Joe". So, I soaked up every minute of that performance including the moment when Usher bowed down to the band and I'll be the first to admit that I've already happily watched the video many times over.

By the time they were done, the energy at MHOW was palpable. The road crew started taking down the stage, but we kept pressing forward and went bananas. Could we get them to come back out again? As it turned out, we could. Just when I thought the night couldn't possibly get any better, there was a second encore. It started with Blame, Etc. and we were about to get Faded except for the fight that broke out and made Greg change his mind and do Step Into The Light instead. Honestly, at that point, I would have listened to the band play their take on Mary Had a Little Lamb and left happy. It was the perfect conclusion to 4 shows in 5 days and I know how lucky I am to have shared those shows with people who have come to mean so much to me.
Four shows in five days and as I finish this post two weeks later I STILL have a huge grin plastered across my face. I love this music, this band, and the amazing friends I have made through them.