Ignore that they played Mr. Smalls last weekend — there’s nothing “indie” about The Afghan Whigs’ brand of rock. Greg Dulli and company took a 16-year break from churning out boozy, horny rock music that would fit better in a Ford F-150 commercial than a Zach Braff movie, and aside from some personnel changes (no more Rick McCollum on lead guitar), not much is different in 2014.
The band stuck with their latest album, Do to the Beast, for a little less than half of the night. They fired up its first two tracks, “Parked Outside” and “Matamoros” to open the show with some of the Whigs’ trademark, big-riffed guitar songs. Near the end of “Parked Outside,” Dulli reminded the audience of his Cincinnati roots by changing the lyrics to include something about a “grand slam in the bottom of the 10th” (the Bucs lost 10-6 to the Reds earlier that day, stifling their NL Central hopes).
Whether they were ripping through older cuts like “Gentlemen” and “John the Baptist” or the new material, the Whigs rarely took their foot off the accelerator. Sometimes for their cover songs (which included tracks from The Beatles, The Doors and Fleetwood Mac), Dulli came over to the piano to tease us with a ballad, only to transform them back into straight-ahead rockers.
While two hours of The Afghan Whigs can expose some of their songs as being indistinguishable in subject matter and structure, their confidence and appeal are hard to argue. Watching two guys with electric guitars facing each other, inches apart, while a cellist plays on the other side of the stage should look silly in 2014, but, somehow, it didn’t. In fact, if a few things went differently for the Whigs, these songs might sound even better in a room three times the size of Mr. Smalls.
-- Shawn Cooke