Built To Spill / The Afghan Whigs at the Cat’s Cradle - 4/28/2018
With The Afghan Whigs
Built To Spill is easily one of my all-time favorites…there’s no more than a couple of bands that I’ve seen live more than them (thanks in part to frequent four-night stints at Slims and/or Great American Music Hall in my former home of San Francisco, where I went to multiple performances most times). I’m there every time they come through town, and gladly. With all that said, there is no way in hell they should have been headlining over Afghan Whigs. You get no frills with BTS – tonight it was just Doug Martsch, his guitar, a shitload of pedals and electronics, and those same two young dudes that have been working as his rhythm section for the last few tours. There’s no fancy backdrops, no elaborate lighting, almost no banter with the crowd – just the man, the songs, and a lot of guitar solos. What the band lacks in personality, they more than make up with it via a particular strong setlist this evening – since there was no new album to promote, they decided to focus heavily on their first few records - particularly from their two best, “Perfect From Now On” and “Keep It Like A Secret.” They also included a cover of the Pretender’s “Back On The Chain Gang,” which Doug more than made his own. I’d love for them to put out an entire record of covers, every tour there are at least one or two great ones in the set. For a big fan like me, Built To Spill undoubtedly put on a damn fine show, but I’m not sure it won any of the fans of Afghan Whigs over. To be fair, given that nearly all of them left right after the Whigs finished, it would have been an especially difficult task.
As you’re already aware, the Afghan Whigs opened. It was mostly the same as when I saw them at Hopscotch last year – matching amps, drums, and backdrop all covered with the graphics from their most recent release “In Spades,” and a set made mostly of songs from their two post-reunion albums. The thing with the Whigs is that if you’re like me and don’t really know most of the new songs that well, they’re still damn fun to watch (and it will definitely make you want to give those most recent records a second listen). Greg Dulli and company aren’t just musicians, they’re performers – the sound is big and professional and animated and really fills the room. They didn’t play only new material – “What Jail Is Like,” Somethin’ Hot,” and “John The Baptist” were a few classic highlights, along with a couple Twilight Singers tracks and a brief foray into Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” during their final song (a favorite tactic of Dulli: instead of doing a full cover, he’ll do part of one of middle of a Whig’s songs…and it always works, no matter how different the two tracks are). As always it was a masterful performance from the band, one deserving of the final slot no matter how big of a Built To Spill one might be.