October 21, 2017

Afghan Whigs Blow the Eardrums out of Vancouver Audience

afghan whigs conor graham nightmair creative

The crowd assembled reached as far back as it could in the historic Rickshaw Theatre, stopping only because there was no more room in front of the theatre-style seating that takes up the back half of the club. The Afghan Whigs were about to come on, and the tension was palpable and the crowd erupted in excitement when Greg Dulli and the rest of the Afghan Whigs took the stage and exploded into ‘Arabian Heights.’

The band played through three songs before they let up; only stopping long enough to hand a pair of ear plugs to a fan who was apparently plugging his ears with his fingers. But I for one could not blame him. Afghan Whigs play loud music, so loud they likely blew the eardrums of every member of the audience. Their performance was so loud and energetic and raw that it was hard to tell when they were using distortion and when they weren’t

Lead singer and guitarist Greg Dulli screamed into the mic like a madman while he methodically plucked away at his guitar strings. Pat Keeler slammed on his drum set and let his symbols crash down on the crowd as only a grungy drummer can. John Curley chugged along on the bass, placing grooves in even the most guitar-heavy songs. Rick Nelson impressively switched between the violin, keyboards and rhythm guitar from song to song. And Jon Skibic wailed on the lead guitar, busting out blindingly fast guitar solos.

Opening the show, Har Mar Superstar put in an entertaining performance. With a late 70’s rock vibe, infused with R&B, funk, Har Mar Superstar impressed the Rickshaw Theatre crowd. While lead singer, Sean Tillmann sang with an impressive vocal range on songs like ‘How Did I Get Through the Day’ and ‘We Don’t Sleep,’ the more impressive components to his performance was his stage presence and dance moves. Mid-song, Tillmann took off his shirt and performed the rest of Har Mar Superstar’s set shirtless. But during ‘We Don’t Sleep” Tillmann got into a head/handstand and proceeded to sing while upside down. The shirtless demonstration was enough to elicit an ovation from the crowd.

It wasn’t until The Afghan Whigs played their song, ‘I Am Fire’ that they gave the crowd time to rest. During their whole set, they were pushing the crowd so hard with the speed and veracity of their songs. Front man Dulli screamed so loud you could hear the emotional undercurrent of each song through his voice. But when the band played a slow song, like ‘I Am Fire’ or the ‘Can Rova’ a beautiful tribute to their fallen band member Dave Rosser, it gave the crowd the chance to feel the true weight of their performance.

The tribute of ‘Can Rova’ was touching. The song is full of grief and played so strongly by the band that you know the weight of Dave Rosser’s passing still weighs heavy on them. And under the hard shell of rock, there is a deep and emotional soft spot in The Afghan Whig’s music.

This soft spot was important to The Afghan Whigs performance because although a lot of their music is dark and serious, it is the soft center that let the crowd know that The Afghan Whigs is a band that plays music that makes you appreciate the preciousness of life.

During the entire performance, the band and the audience felt very connected, despite the very elevated stage of the Rickshaw Theatre. The band left the stage after a final song that utilized Don Henley’s ‘The Boy’s of Summer.’ In an unusual but rather impressive move, singer Greg Dulli left the stage first (after a three-song encore) to let the band rock out on the unique composition of ‘The Boys of Summer.’ And Rock out they did, leaving the Vancouver crowd in a cacophony of stage lights and improvisational sound.

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written by Conor Graham, photos by Conor Graham

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