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Coming back in style

Sold venue to receive the resucitated Afghan Whighs with the honours they deserve. The audience being in its majority veterans, and after a twenty minute delay to make the audience truly despair, Greg Dulli and the robust John Curley on the bass (only original members) appeared, well surrounded by musicians with whom Dulli had been recording and touring for years; guitarists John Skibic and Dave Rosser, violin and keyboard player Rick Nelson, and Cully Symington on the drums, a music globetrotter who has recorded, among others, with Okkervil River, Shearwater, Cursive and Conor Oberst.

There were no surprises in the setlist that the band of Cincinatti had been playing in its european tour, and the show was almost the same with small variations, starting as always with the rocky Parked Outside and the Arabic airs of Matamoros; because when all the necessary elements are there, only one thing can happen: a memorable show. Perfect sound, impecable band, a frontman with superhuman voice and charisma and, of course, a rocking repertoire.

They even allowed themselves to leave out some great songs to leave room for the album they were presenting, a clear indication that they take this new stage very seriously, and the best part is that, given how they defended their album, they are quite right. Up to nine songs from Do to the Beast were played, with a spectacular Royal Cream linked non-stop (as happens in the album) with I am Fire and its drums, that guitar missile which is The Lottery, the elegant single Algiers, It Kills on the keyboards with its explosive ending, and a revitalized Lost in the Woods, which left one of the pictures of the night: Dulli half-crouched drumming one-handed and singing with the other as if he was telling a scary tale.

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Time will tell if these songs reach the status of classics, meanwhile it's evident that they don't resist a comparison with the great songs of the past. We found evidence in the general reaction to the first notes of Fountain and Fairfax or Debonair, two songs from that ruthless and dangerous sonorous device which is Gentlemen (Elektra 1993). The first age of the band also had its moment with Son of the South, or the best known Turn on the water from their album Congregation (Sub-Pop 1992).

But the true greatness of the band showed in various moments which will forever linger in our memories; the medley in which, with great mastery, they began with a cover of Heaven on their Minds of Jesuchrist Superstar and linked it with the lascivious Somethin' Hot; an overwhelming Gentleman which Dulli performed with all his heart, and the abrupt and amazing linking of the funky soul party which is John the Baptist with My Enemy, one of the great songs from the album Black Love (Elektra 1995).

After leaving us completely knocked-out and in a state of extreme excitement, we could still enjoy three encores: Summer's Kiss, Teenage Wristband from the album Blackberry Belle (One Little Indian, 2003) by the Twilight Singers and, as almost always throughout his career, Dulli began to say goodbye with the background piano notes of the epic Faded.

At the exit I heard many debates about whether they should have played such song, or that the absence of another was unforgivable, but the truth is that they cannot be blamed for anything. Arguments about the repertoire left aside, the important thing is that these 'new' Afghan Whigs are more alive than ever, that Greg Dulli is in great shape and excited. If only all comebacks were like theirs.

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