When the Afghan Whigs reunited back in 2012, they played a warm-up gig at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom before heading off to Europe for the summer. Tuesday night (May 23), exactly five years to the day, the band did the same, this time uptown a few miles at the Apollo Theater. And for an act reared on the soul music of the ‘60s and ‘70s, playing the iconic Harlem venue was, as frontman Greg Dulli would say late in the show, a “dream come true.”

“Good evening, Apollo!” crowed the beaming singer following “Light as a Feather,” a highlight from the latest Whigs’ release, In Spades. “Been waiting my whole life to say those words.”

Big Joe Turner, Billie Holiday, the Supremes and, most notably, James Brown and the Famous Flames are just a handful of artists who had career-defining concerts take place on the now 83-year-old stage. The Afghan Whigs were determined to do the same, delivering a tight set which leaned heavily on the new record – pulling seven songs from it – and keeping the audience on their toes with a few surprises.

One of them came early on in the form of a cover, as it’s always been a roulette wheel of curiosity to see what the group will bust out, having tackled everything from Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” to Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes “ to “If I Only Had a Heart” from The Wizard of Oz in concert over the years. This time around it was a take on Pleasure Club, the underrated early-‘00s outfit led by singer James Hall, and the song “You Want Love.” The somber track was given an additional emotional heft as it was dedicated to Whigs’ guitarist Dave Rosser, who has been on the shelf since last year as he’s battled cancer.

“Last time we were [in New York], we were a six-piece,” Dulli said in introducing the song. “Our brother Dave Rosser is illin’ right now…[we] used to go see Pleasure Club all the time and loved them – big fans. They had this song called ‘You Want Love’ and Rosser was like, ‘Man, we should do ‘You Want Love’ sometime.’ So tonight, Dave Rosser, I hope you feel it, because we’re going to play ‘You Want Love’ for Mr. Rosser right now.”

Immediately after, Dulli brought out soul singer Lee Fields, a fitting choice as the soul singer was pegged “Little J.B.” early in his career for his physical and sometimes musical similarity to James Brown. The Whigs played backing band to Fields for his Expressions 2014 cover of the JJ Cale track “Magnolia.”

Elsewhere, the newer material blended effortlessly with the songs from the ‘90s and the first go-round for the Whigs, as “Gentlemen,” “Somethin’ Hot” and “Summer’s Kiss” were highlights. Other standout moments were Dulli replicating the left-on-record sniff in the middle of "In Spades" and Apollo set opener “Birdland,” the gorgeous new one “Toy Automatic” and a one-two punch encore started with “Royal Cream” and “I Am Fire” from 2014’s Do to the Beast.

Support act Joseph Arthur and Steve Myers from NYC’s raucous Mighty Fine made multiple appearances throughout the show to lend backing vocals to the Whigs, with the former even pulling up a fine young lady decked out in a gold lamé – an homage to the backup dancers in the video for In Spades’ lead single "Demon in Profile" – during show closer “Faded.”

“Thank you, Apollo. You were wonderful,” Dulli said to end the night. “It was a dream come true!”

Tonight the Whigs kick off a European tour in Manchester, England with a show moved from the Manchester Cathedral to the O2 Ritz due to Monday’s terrorist attack in the city. The full list of North American tour dates is below.

Afghan Whigs 2017 North American Tour Dates

9/6 – Orlando, Fla. @ The Social
9/7 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Terminal West
9/9 – Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
9/11 – Richmond, Va. @ The National
9/12 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Union Transfer
9/14 – Boston, Mass. @ Paradise
9/16 – Brooklyn, N.Y. @ Brooklyn Steel
9/18 – Montreal, Quebec @ Theatre Fairmount
9/19 – Toronto, Ontario @ Opera House
9/21 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Ave
9/22 – Chicago, Ill. @ Metro
9/23 – Chicago, Ill. @ Metro
9/24 – Milwaukee, Wis. @ Turner Hall
9/26 – Detroit, Mich. @ St Andrews
9/28 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ Bogarts
9/29 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Exit IN
9/30 – Birmingham, Ala. @ Saturn
10/12 – San Diego, Calif. @ Belly Up
10/13 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Fonda Theatre
10/14 – San Francisco, Calif. @ The Fillmore
10/16 – Portland, Oreg. @ Wonder Ballroom
10/17 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rickshaw Theatre
10/18 – Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox
10/19 – Salt Lake, Utah @ Urban Lounge
10/21 – Denver, Colo @ Gothic Theatre
10/22 – Kansas City, Kans. @ Record Bar
10/24 – Austin, Texas @ Mohawk
10/25 – Dallas, Texas @ Trees
10/26 – Houston, Texas @ Heights Theater

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