The crowd at the front of the AMD Stage was mostly still collecting Pokemon cards when the Afghan Whigs released their final album in 1999.
And while the band inspires a fierce loyalty in those who adore their music, they haven't gone become a cult legend whose records have been passed along on burned CDs and external hard drives from teenaged fan to teenaged fan over the past thirteen years, the way that, say, the similarly-timelined At The Drive In has.
For its part, the band has settled into its reunion nicely. After over a decade off, any rust that may have gathered has shaken off well.
So the number of teenagers up front were probably mostly just there to hold a good spot for the closing set from AVICCI, but who really cares about that? The Afghan Whigs are an accessible rock band whose music translates well to listeners who are otherwise stuffed full of pills and waiting for a DJ to emerge.
That's mostly how things seemed to go for the Whigs' set on Friday (er, that is, the Afghan Whigs' set — a band called The Whigs, with no modifier, is on the bill for Saturday, leading to what's sure to be much confusion among fans of relatively straightforward, guitar-based rock bands). The crowd near the front was a mix of place-holding teenagers and die-hard fans in their 30s and 40s, who've been utterly devoted to the band's mix of guitar rock and classic soul since the heyday of Alternative Nation.
For its part, the band has settled into its reunion nicely. After over a decade off, any rust that may have gathered has shaken off well; while the Afghan Whigs have always been a night-time band, they were compelling even during a mid-day performance, loading up the set list with big rock-and-roll stompers like "Uptown Again," "What Jail Is Like," and "Crazy."
The band has also shaken off the reunion-show tendency to focus mostly on the hits (or at least the most beloved songs) in favor of a set that more accurately reflects the experience of seeing the Afghan Whigs in the pre-breakup days.
Back then, the Whigs were known for dropping in covers, both expected and not, throughout their set, interpolating other artists' songs into their own, and generally treating the performance as something of a revue. The ACL performance included pieces of "Who Do You Love" by Bo Diddley, "Little Red Corvette" by Prince, "See and Don't See" by Marie Queenie Lyons, and "Lovecrimes" by Frank Ocean.
In short, the Afghan Whigs' ACL set was a snapshot of what the band has been, and of where they are now (while "Who Do You Love" and "Little Red Corvette" were staples of the band's first run, "See And Don't See" and "Lovecrimes" are exclusive to this incarnation).
All that's really left for the band are some new songs of their own, and until that happens, the ACL set was at least proof that this reunion has their full attention.