Live Review: The Whigs, Chicago, IL, Nov. 6, 2009

whigsnewsHitting the Bottom Lounge stage to the strains of the Tomahawk Chop—by far the coolest use ever for that lame chant, forever ruined by Jane Fonda—Atlanta Braves fans the Whigs actually began their set six minutes ahead of their scheduled 11:10 start time. (Is that important? No, but it’s rare enough to point out.) The Athens, Ga., power trio led off with the title track from the upcoming In The Dark (ATO) and followed with “Like A Vibration,” the first tune from their outstanding second LP, 2008’s Mission Control; off and running like Otis Nixon, they rarely spoke or slowed the pace for any shades of nuance.

This is not a criticism. Sounding more like a band of six than three, these guys play with a hearty ferocity. The scorching “Hot Bed” from Mission Control was the show’s highlight; the song’s break found guitarist/vocalist Parker Gisbert, bathed in white light, frantically strumming while maniacally kicking his left leg. It was one of those moments that transcendeds the environment, making you feel like you were witnessing something far more than a hard-working band playing to a roughly half-full club.

Here’s a mild criticism: the show’s brevity. About 40 minutes in, I’m guessing, the guys left the stage for a minute—if it was any longer, I’m Ted Turner—came back (once again to the Tomahawk Chop) and happily pummeled the crowd for another 20 minutes. (“Already Young,” another Control tune, was the standout.) Then they were gone. An hour? Really? Now, you get maximum rock ‘n’ roll effort during those 60 outstanding minutes, but it just ended up seeming way too short. Guided By Voices’ “A Salty Salute” was the first song heard after the house lights went up, but that was a temporary balm for the disappointment.

It’s really a testament to just how good the Whigs were that I’m complaining about wanting them to continue. Believe me, at my age, it’s generally fine to leave a club a few ticks after midnight. Just not this night.

—Matt Hickey