BY TIM HINELY
It had been exactly two decades since I’d last seen the Whigs. It was on the Gentlemen tour in 1994 in San Francisco (at The Fillmore). I wasn’t as impressed with their next record, Black Love and never heard 1965 (which I should rectify as I’ve heard it’s a good record). So here in late 2014 I was ready again to see the Whigs (the band that put Cincinnati on the map?). They played here last year at the Ogden Theatre, but I ended up missing that show (unfortunately).
I caught the last few songs of opener Joseph Arthur. He was a name I’d heard about the past few years but had never checked him out (which is my fault as he’s got a boatload of records out). On stage he was with his electric guitar (plus he occasionally stomped on a kick drum and some samples). He seemed real earnest and I know he’s got a loyal following, but his set didn’t do a lot for me. He did cover the Velvet Undergrounds “Heroin” and had a large painting, done by him, on an easel right behind him that I believe was for sale. Despite what I said earlier, I do want to check out his recorded material.
The Whigs came out as a five piece (and the annoying stage hand running around, moving mics around, etc.). From the old days only singer/guitarist/leader Greg Dulli and bassist John Curley remain. There were two other guitarists (Jon Skibic and Dave Rosser), a keyboardist/cello player and drummer. The band was tight and passionate as Dulli orchestrated the madness (tightness) for the entire set and even chatted up the crowd a bit.
They opened with “Parked Outside”, the first song on their latest record, Do to the Beast, their first record in nearly 20 years and it was a gritty piece and a great way to open the set. In fact, most of the songs on this evening were from …Beast, but they did include “Step into the Light” (from 96’s Black Love) , “Somethin’ Hot” (from ‘98’s 1965) and a few classics from their masterpiece, Gentlemen, including “Fountain and Fairfax’ and the title track.
On this second to last night of the tour, they played a few encores and were joined by Joseph Arthur. I feel happy to say that after all these years, Dulli and Co. have still got it. The set was as powerful as I’d hoped and judging by the chatter outside the club after the show, the packed Bluebird crowd all felt the same way.
Photos of the Whigs and Arthur courtesy each artist’s Facebook page.