The Church @ Lincoln Theatre – June 22nd 2024
The Church @ Lincoln Theatre – June 22nd 2024

Live Review: The Church + The Afghan Whigs @ Lincoln Theatre – June 22nd 2024

2024 is becoming the year of the co-headlining tour. Not that such arrangements are totally new, of course. But as touring costs have gone up and artists have had to look for ways to make going on the road more economically sound, sharing the cost (and risks) with another band has become a more and more common way to manage it. There are a lot of upsides for everyone – the bands get to play larger venues than they might on their own, split the expenses, and, if all goes well, make some new fans from among each others’ followers. The audience gets to see two great bands for little more than they’d normally pay to see one. It seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon – Pixies and Modest Mouse, Ride and The Charlatans, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Psychedelic Furs, Jane’s Addiction and Love and Rockets, to name only few of the tours that have been out there or are coming up. This past week two stalwarts of alternative music, The Church and The Afghan Whigs, embarked on their summer tour across the US together, appearing at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC this past Saturday night.

Opening the show with a brief but enjoyable set was English singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt, who recently released his eleventh album, El Magnifico. Harcourt played mostly solo, swapping between piano and guitar, but was joined by Afghan Whigs member Rick G. Nelson on violin for a couple of songs. In addition to playing several songs from his new album, Harcourt also dug into his back catalog for several tracks including “Birds Fly Backwards” from his debut album Here Be Monsters, and “Shadow Boxing” and “Until Tomorrow Then” from The Beautiful Lie.

Afghan Whigs took the stage second. The band’s most recent album How Do You Burn? came out two years ago to much acclaim, but for this show they played a career-spanning set going as far back as their 1993 album Gentlemen. With fan favorites including “Debonair,” “What Jail Is Like,” “Going To Town,” and “Somethin’ Hot” filling the setlist, the audience were up out of their seats and crowding the front of the theatre to dance almost immediately after the band came on.

The Church closed out the evening. The band underwent a significant line-up change in 2020, with founding guitarist Peter Koppes departing and being replaced by Ashley Naylor, and long-time touring musician Jeffrey Cain getting promoted to full member status. Even though the pandemic ground everything to a halt right aas that happened, the band has entered into a newly prolific period since. The double concept album The Hypnogogue came out last year, and as if that wasn’t enough, was quickly followed by another companion double album Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars (and if that’s still not enough, frontman Steve Kilbey has also released a novella tying into the story and a further follow-up EP under the name Pandora Mod Z-Art, both of which were available at the merch booth). The two albums represent some of the strongest, most compelling music that the band has released in quite some time.

If the albums hint at a band revitalized, their performance proved it. Kilbey is obviously very enthusiastic about The Hypnogogue even a year into touring it, and as the group played through a setlist drawing heavily from it he told pieces of the story behind the concept to introduce them. Of course the band made sure to sprinkle a few of the hits in to keep the punters engaged – “Metropolis,” “Reptile,” and “Under the Milky Way” all made their expected appearances – but the new records were the stars of the night. And while focusing too heavily on your new album can be the death knell for many legacy artists, the songs were met by roars of approval from the audience and a standing ovation at the end, even from those who had obviously been there for Afghan Whigs.

The Church and The Afghan Whigs may be getting a little older and a little grayer, but unlike many bands from their generations, both are creating some of the best music and putting on some the best performances of their careers now. The tour has finished its east coast dates, but it continues on through the midwest and to the west coast through the rest of June and into the middle of July. Fans of either band (or both!) should definitely go to check them out.

PHOTOS © MATT CONDON

The Church

The Afghan Whigs

Ed Harcourt