Manchester MDH

For all the vaunted (and very real) darkness at the [B]Whigs[/B]' soul, their ultimate gift is their consummate handle on rock music and on live performance.

You'd kinda expect the Whigs to approach their first European gig since Greg Dulli's brush with death gingerly, with a little caution. Anything but the full-on, revelatory rock'n'roll experience we are actually treated to.

'Cos tonight sees the Whigs playing the finest goddamned rock'n'soul revue you ever did see, with Dulli the Devil's own ideal frontman. Dulli reminds you why someone in their right mind once described this as "sex muzik"; it's in his confident, teasing manner, calling us a "quiet bunch o' motherfPPas" 'cuz we won't dance as much as he'd like (it's not our fault, we're English!), and dissing Manchester's favourite sons, Johnny Marr, Noel and Liam.

And then there's the songs, which catalogue with such vicious honesty the fucked-up relationships we're all too familiar with; be it the fear of commitment in 'What Jail Is Really Like' (so fresh, so visceral, it's like they're playing it for the first time), or the irresistible charms of 'Doing The Wrong Thing', as depicted in 'Uptown Again', 'Somethin' Hot'... hell, the whole Whigs oeuvre. It's an unblinking emotional reportage which documents what others fear to touch upon and which, by comparison, condemns most other lyricists as blunted, greeting-card hacks.

But if Greg is the Devil with a deceptive grin, then redemption comes in the form of the Whigs' music. The band the Whigs currently have carving out their slabs of heart-wrenching soul are without compare in their peer group (as well as the core four Whigs, add a percussionist, two backing singers, and a keyboard player stolen from Prince's backing band). The Whigs sup deeply from many different sources and represent them comprehensively in their sound, without cynicism or irony. Check the New Orleans atmospherics of 'Citi Soleil' and the segues into The Temptations' 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone', or the gospel overtones of guest vocalist Susan Marshall's take on 'My Curse', tonight a choking lament which leaves the audience stunned by Marshall's performance.

For all the vaunted (and very real) darkness at the Whigs' soul, their ultimate gift is their consummate handle on rock music and on live performance, best borne out by 'Fountain And Fairfax', which is preceded by a lengthy build-up as Dulli introduces his band, all expert foreplay which makes its effect felt when the opening chords finally hit, a musical orgasm so much more powerful than the recorded version could ever suggest. It's this gift that the Whigs are taking on tour with them, across America with Aerosmith. And it's this gift which will ultimately win them the hearts of an American constituency for whom Sub Pop cred means absolutely nothing. A rebirth, a refinement of intent, a br

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