Afghan Whigs, St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit, September 11, 2022

summer's kiss is over, baby

Afghan Whigs, St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit, September 11, 2022
how do you burn?

You don’t know how much you miss something until you get to feel it again. I thought about this standing in front of the stage at St. Andrew’s Hall on Monday night —Monday, an accursed day for a rock show -- and once again watching Greg Dulli connect the dots from album to album.

I don’t setlist watch unless I have a reason to, so I didn’t know what we were going to get, and I loved the meander through the brand new material and then back into more recent material —and I’m honestly truly delighted to hear stuff from In Spades or Do To The Beast over vintage Whigs.

Dulli only picks the songs he can still sing convincingly -- and yes I would have been surprised if you had told me in 1996 that I’d still be watching him sing “I’ll tell you a secret/we shared a needle once or twice.” Or even That Line in “Gentlemen.” It’s a character, I know, that was the very first flame war I had on congregation-l, the old Afghan Whigs mailing list back in 1995, that one of the things I admired most about Dulli as a songwriter and as a performer is that he doesn’t pretend that it’s him. His life was colorful enough.

I’ve spent five minutes with the new Afghan Whigs record (How Do You Burn, out Friday last) so I don’t have a detailed opinion yet. But after 3-4 listens, I like it. I even like “I’ll Make You See God,” the loud and blustery first single, which at first I was ready to write off as one of those driving rockers that Dulli could write in his sleep. It is that, but it’s also a very good song that is fantastic live even if my preference is for the more complex compositions. Not even slower songs! Just less blatantly rawk. But it’s fun to watch this group of people play together and play these songs.

Dulli has a knack of finding the right kind of musical compatriots, great musicians who he can work with, who have enough personality to keep it interesting but not so much that it looks like they’re trying to compete with the main man. (I’m thinking Nathan December on the Monster tour. He was also not that good.) I am glad to see Dulli has found a new onstage sparring partner in Christopher Thorn, who wielded his Telecaster with sharpness and agility. No one is ever going to replace Dave Rosser but as a fan for a very, very long time, it matters to me to be able to watch the people who make art I care about find other kindred souls to do that with. John Curley embodies John Entwistle’s immovability (and, as always, his fluidity) more and more as he gets older. Patrick Keeler and Rick Nelson reprise their previous roles and their seniority means that the live act is more cohesive than ever, which is saying a lot. (When great drummers are so hard to find, how does Dulli always find them? Amazing.)

The reward last night was the muscle memory, my body remembering the reaction to the older material, which them sets off the emotional chain reaction of the joy of getting to feel it all again. You remember, even if you worry you might forget. This show is a powerhouse, with Patrick Keeler rolling in the next song as soon as the previous one draws to a close; this isn’t the Greg Dulli comedy hour any more, but he’s also not walking onstage to a mic stand with two cup holders, one for a drink and one for an ashtray. Not for the first fucking time am I grateful that this man survived everything he has gone through, both by choice and by circumstance. He is pandemic-gray but still the most charming motherfucker on Planet Earth. (The women behind and in front of me in the queue were on the phone to their BFF’s as we waited, panicking about how they were about to meet the Savior of Misbehavior. It was adorable.)

<p><em>nice dodgers shirt</em></p>
nice dodgers shirt

In the Q&A before the show (yes, I did the VIP thing because I didn’t want to worry about getting a good spot and I also wanted to find out what’s going on with the Twilight Singers box set without having to talk to a manager or a publicist) he talked about playing at St. Andrews 30+ years or so ago and how Martha Reeves came out and sang with them, and that she brought a joint and they went out and smoked it together. (Apparently she thought his name was Tom, and he was happy to be Tom.) The same person pursued that line of questioning about who the coolest person was that he’d gotten high with, and my brain quietly said Ted Demme but thank god I did not say that out loud because that is exactly who he answered, that he was the most fun person to get high with, and I wish kinda that that question hadn’t been asked. But he also could’ve given a different answer, too. It’s the kind of dumb stuff people ask at these things.

<p><em>the keyboard stylings of mr greg dulli</em></p>
the keyboard stylings of mr greg dulli

The band has had extensive equipment problems on tour already and then the bus broke down en route to Detroit so they arrived late, which meant that this was not the show during which Greg was gonna start switching some things out, which he warned us about during the Q&A. This is a band of literal rock and roll troupers but it’s also really fucking hard to do your job if you cannot hear yourself sing. This is what happened when Dulli moved to the piano, and after a song and a half he just yelled at his sound guy to turn him up in the PA so he could hear something.

(BTW: This is a very, very loud show. I wear fancy musician’s earplugs that are molded to my actual ear canals, and *my* ears were ringing last night. Bring earplugs. Also, it’s nice to have the road manager come out and tell folks to wear earplugs but not one member of this goddamn band is wearing any kind of hearing protection.)

It was fun to hear “Fountain and Fairfax” after being in Los Angeles last week, driving by that corner more than once, humming it in my head, hoping I caught a stoplight so I could get another photo. I am not the world’s biggest fan of “Somethin’ Hot” but I absolutely relished the hot buttered nostalgia that came via the “Heaven on Their Minds” intro. I love it because Dulli sings the fuck out of it and because it is a shared connection to the music we both grew up on. It’s the last vestige of early Whigs-ness in the set, also: we’re not gonna hear “Gimme Three Steps” or “Housequake” and it’s really okay because I would rather have Dulli shredding vocal chords on this particular cover in the immaculate fashion he always delivers it.

The intro to “Summer’s Kiss” was burbling underneath towards the end, at least I thought it was, Greg said something but I don’t remember what because I didn’t expect that I would get emotional over “Summer’s Kiss.” But just the other day I looked outside after a rain storm and saw leaves on the ground and whispered, “Summer’s kiss is over, baby,” and it was not a generic ‘oh shit, it’s gonna get cold again’ but rather specifically that emotion of the loss of time that the song embodies. It is the same kind of shimmer he brings to “Teenage Wristband,” probably always and forever Dulli’s best moment, but here it’s season-specific, it’s a particular tone of farewell when you know it will come around again, even if it will feel or taste different the next time.

He lets up on the emotional accelerator with “My Enemy,” which is absolutely about goodbye and regret, but there’s a spirit of emancipation and agency that gives it more energy, but then he fools us all by closing with “Into the Floor.” That song is a spinning mirror ball of hope and loss and the pain of being human, and while I am not the world’s biggest Smiths fan it is absolutely genius [SPOILER ALERT] to segue that into “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” to close the show, this show, this story, this arc. It’s fucking brutal. It is a coup de grace, in the most Dulli-ian way possible.

[more images & video over on instagram]


  1. I was surprised how much vintage Whigs stuff was in the set after the Q&A when Greg talked about the reunion tour and how he was glad it made people happy but it was hard for him to play the old stuff solidly for an entire tour -- — covers on that tour were the ‘new’ things for him -- last night the old stuff was a third of the set.
  2. As we would learn in the pre-show Q&A for those who bought the soundcheck/exclusive merchandise bundle/get in early deal, it’s honestly John Curley who plays the Roger Daltrey role in setlist creation, according to Greg.


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