If the year 2017 reveals itself to have been an unremarkable year as regards to scandals and misdemeanours in the rock and roll realm, then one atypical event of note was the reappearance of Greg Dulli and his clan of accompanying minstrels for a second sojourn of the calendar year to the European mainland, as well as the United Kingdom, where they have already toured extensively promoting their latest dissertation that is the album In Spades (QRO review), coming to Rescue Rooms in Nottingham on Tuesday, August 15th.
Perhaps the clues lie in the nature of In Spades, which instead of having its bedfellow as the R&B tinged grunge that was expected, they seem to have entered into a secular tryst with the bad boy that is hard rock, whilst maybe Dulli has become satiated with the nihilism of peering over the event horizon of despair and wishes to tread a more well-worn and established path to achieve the levels of success he craves. This career metamorphosis is common, as artists realise the niche they have painstakingly carved out turns into a rut that becomes impossible to find any means of egress. Queens of the Stone Age have an analogous band dynamic to The Afghan Whigs, and led by Josh Homme decided to leave their Stoner rock shtick behind them and conceive a new career as the leviathans of alternative rock. The crowds and units shifted may have expanded but artistically they seem to have stagnated and appear to be struggling to regain their lost identity. Only time will tell if Dulli’s plans for The Afghan Whigs are of a similar essence, but if the venues that they are playing are a gauge of their progress, then the appearance at the 450 capacity Rescue Rooms denoted a downturn compared to recent visits to these shores, where large ornate listed buildings and churches are the band’s customary domain (QRO live review).
The set was almost identical to the one performed at Koko London earlier this year (QRO live review), as Dulli again entered the fray unaccompanied to perform “Birdland”, the opening track from the In Spades album. From then on, the assault was bordering on cacophonous as the five-guitar line-up blitzkreiged their way through the set. The tryst with the heavier side of the rock and roll genus seemed to have turned into a full-blown affair, as all subtlety and varied nuances were crushed beneath the onslaught. As at Koko the nucleus of the set was taken from the last two albums with a quartet lifted from Black Love, with the ubiquitous “Faded” ending the encore, and yet another surprise was that there was nothing from their monument to decadence that was Gentlemen. If Dulli is purposely heading in the direction of a more brutal and harder edged sound then I’m sure his flock will unconditionally follow the call, but for how long as the places of worship become less house of the holy and more sympathy for the devil?