Live in Los Angeles:
THE AFGHAN WHIGS
& BUILT TO SPILL
with Ed Harcourt
May 10, 2018
Los Angeles, CA
words by Dan Sinclair
photographs by Stevo Rood
LOS ANGELES, CA-- In the darkness, the bald man leans in closer to me and asks, "Who is this guy?" This slightly tipsy, but very much impressed, longtime Afghan Whigs fan was as lucky as this writer was to show up early for the show and catch Ed Harcourt open the show.
The English-born singer/songwriter drew a large crowd so early in the night even if he had to do it all himself-- guitar, drum, piano... computer-- it was all Ed. Looking at him up on stage, he kind of reminded me of myself... you know, if I had any musical talent whatsoever... and was better looking.
He reminds the crowd it's been a while since he played in Los Angeles-- or maybe he just meant the Wiltern-- but either way, he said it had been eight years and he had been doing a bunch of "gardening." Personally, I really dug "Furnaces" and "Loup Garou," but like the rest of the Wiltern, I applauded loudly after each song played.
The Afghan Whigs were first up on this co-headlining tour with brother '90s indie rockers Built to Spill. Frontman Greg Dulli took center with drummer John Keener behind him, guitarist Jon Skibic and bassist John Curley to his right, while multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson settled to his left. They wasted little time, kicking the set off with "Arabian Nights" off of last year's In Spades, and then went into the fast-based, hipshaker from Do to the Beast, "Metamoros."
And after a few extra chords, the song carried over into "Debonair," off the iconic '90s album, Gentlemen. Ah, yes, I remember my teenage days, and turning the TV up loud, every time that video came on during MTV's 120 minutes. I'm old.
Greg finally says hello and thanks everyone for coming out before launching into "Light as a Feather," after which Ed Harcourt joins him on stage to play piano on "Oriole."
Next up is one of the best songs Dulli has written this century in the heartbreaker "Toy Automatic" (which also happens to be the very favorite Whigs song of my beautiful son's beautiful mother). Then, as is Afghan Whigs tradition, it's time for a few cover songs-- first is David Gilmour's "There's No Way Out of Here" that somehow turns into "Heaven on Their Minds" from Jesus Christ Superstar.
The crowd gets their most enthusiastic when the band kicks into "Somethin' Hot" off of 1965. Ed Harcourt is back, and really kicking some ass on piano, and making asses shake perhaps in a way they never had before under an art deco ceiling.
"The Lottery" follows, before Greg heads over and sits in front of the piano himself. He scolds an asshole who uses a flash. He then lets everyone know that the next day is his birthday, and the only thing he wants is no flash photography. Then everyone sings along to a slowed-down rendition of "Going to Town," followed by "Demon in Profile."
Next up, the Twilight Singers' song "The Killer," before returning to Whigs' classics "John the Baptist" and "My Enemy." The set finally closes with "Into the Floor" as Greg leaves the stage to let the band play out the rest of the song... clearly to start his birthday celebration early.
As to be expected, several Afghan Whigs fans left after Greg was no longer on stage to call it an early night, but they were replaced by some Built to Spill fans that came late with no interest in watching the Whigs. Most people stayed the entire night. These were the cool people... like ME!
Some of you dedicated fans may remember that BeerMoviesMusic snapped a crappy picture or two of Built to Spill during their set at last year's RIOT FEST in Chicago. But... we didn't stay for their whole set. Sorry! There was too much good stuff all happening all at once that day! Well, don't worry. This time we stayed for the whole thing and it was worth it. Well, most of it...
The stage looks pretty bare with all the Whigs' gear gone. Built to Spill are minimalists with a drum set alongside a bass and a guitar, both with only a single amp. But much like the Afghan Whigs' set, the fellas from Built to Spill launch right into theirs without saying anything at all, staring off with "Goin' Against Your Mind," and then "The Plan."
Even though I've heard it as far back as the Treepeople days, it still gets me every time to hear that high-pitched voice come out of Doug Martsch's mouth. It never looks to fit, but somehow just feels so right.
They played crowd favorites "In the Morning" and "Strange" before covering the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang," and everyone sang along. Well, everyone except me. I actually kind of hate that song, so I went downstairs to piss.
But when they came back to "I Would Hurt a Fly," I was right back on board. I may have missed a song or two. It was a long piss. I was back for "On the Way" and "Carry the Zero," though. That I remember.
Soon thereafter, the show was over and the Wiltern staff was promptly kicking everyone out. The crowd's age range varied from 20s to 50s, but I don't think a single soul left unsatisfied-- the Built to Spill people got their fill and the Afghan Whiggies were able to get jiggy....
Okay, I'm sorry. That was terrible, but guess what? I typed it anyway, and I'm not going back and changing it now. I've gone too far. Just know that The Afghan Whigs/Built to Spill tour was someone out there's genius idea, and that person deserves a fucking medal. Or at least, like, a cool T-shirt or something. Yeah!
There you go-- first BMM concert coverage of 2018, and it was the FUCKING AFGHAN WHIGS AND BUILT TO SPILL!! Boom.
For more from Stevo Rood, go here.
For more from Dan Sinclair, go here.