More than grunge – Two great American bands: The Afghan Whigs (Koko, London, 30th May 2017) and Buffalo Tom (Islington Assembly Hall, London, 9th June 2017)

These two bands have many things in common: they were considered part of the grunge movement whereas in reality their roots are more to be found in traditional American music, they have great leaders/singers, they stopped for many years after the 90’s, they recently came back though…and your host had the pleasure in catching them live in a 10-day period. No excuse then not to do a review of these concerts.

  • The Afghan Whigs – London, Koko – 30th May 2017

No need to tell my whole story as not fascinating but I decided to go and try my luck literally one hour before the start of the show after a long and tiring road trip from France. I was rewarded thanks to a nice lady who sold me the ticket of her sick husband…for £10! And this for a band for which I came especially to London when I was not living in London in 2012 (I’ll be your mirror Festival)… On the other side, I lost all my pictures of the concert due to a computer issue so I guess bad and good news were balanced.

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Although I had seen a great solo concert of their leader Greg Dulli last year, this concert from The Afghan Whigs was at the same place as last time in 2015. Koko (formerly known as the Camden Palace) is one of the most extraordinary theatre I know and seeing this great band again in this same place was really great.

Not sure what I can add on this band which to me is one of the best ever. Their new record “In Spades” has recently been this blog’s album of the month. The way the setlist was built was particularly remarkable as the new songs from the two latest LP’s were totally integrated with older classics, such as “Gentlemen” for instance. Despite Greg’s fight against one or two members of the audience who were taking picture with flash on, the show was particularly moving, knowing that their guitarist Dave Rosser was absent because of his current fight against cancer. If I could add one thing on top of my previous posts on this great band, it would that Greg Dulli is a hell of a singer. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the great Ed Harcourt as an opening act and playing many songs with the band as well as a second guitarist.

  • Buffalo Tom – London, Islington Assembly Hall – 9th June 2017

Lead by the excellent Bill Janovitz on guitar and voice, Buffalo Tom is an American power pop rock trio who have made eight brilliant records between 1989 and 2011. I never had the opportunity to see them live and this year was a fantastic one as they were celebrating the 25 years of their best album “Let Me Come Over” released in 1992.

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On top of being a brilliant musician, Bill Janovitz has more than one string to his bow and he is in particular an excellent writer. I recently wrote his 33 1/3 series book on The Rolling Stones‘ “Exile on Main Street” and I must say this is one of the best.

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Their set was brilliant and the least one can say is that the band are as dynamic and punchy in their current early 50’s incarnation than they were twenty-five years ago. The songs were played with a real density but also with a great pop sensitivity. The way the set was structured was really good: the band were their own opening act, playing first eleven songs covering all Buffalo Tom periods. After a short break, they came back to play the gorgeous “Let Me Come Over” in its entirety, before playing two encores…for a total of twenty-six songs!

As usual in this kind of celebration, the audience was looking like the former French Parliament (mainly men in the fifties) and it would be good to see more female and youngsters as in the current French political trend. However, if this is the price to pay to see such a great band, so be it!

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