The Afghan Whigs mesmerize at Union Transfer

The Afghan Whigs | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

The Afghan Whigs are one of the best live rock bands ever, period. And they’ve always had an interesting relationship with Philadelphia. From their epic 3+ hour shows that went deep into the night at the TLA in the 90s, through a period where they intentionally passed over the city (citing relationship issues with the venues), the connection with the fans here has never waned. An Afghan Whigs show is never predictable, from vocalist Greg Dulli’s banter, through the weaving of classic songs into Whigs hits and back again. Hundreds were present at the Union Transfer Tuesday night to hang on every word, and sing every lyric. Continue reading →


Iron Maiden unites generations of metal fans for its first Philly gig in two decades

Iron Maiden | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

It is astounding to me that Iron Maiden’s last Philly performance was over 20 years ago, at the Electric Factory during the brief and forgettable tenure of singer Blaze Bayley. Like a mythical beast forcing its way through the gates of our city, Iron Maiden arrived last night, tour buses strong, laying out a stage built like a multilevel Mayan temple. True to their historic setlist approach, the band pulled strongly from 2015’s return to form, Book of Souls, performing six tracks including a massive rendition of the nearly 15-minute “The Red and the Black.” It was three songs into their set before they unleashed “Wrathchild,” fully engaging the very sold out 20,000 fans in the Wells Fargo center. A quick look through the crowd showed an incredible age range, from children clearly not even ten, the many in their 60s donning countless variations of black Eddie (the band’s mascot) t-shirts. Continue reading →


Midnight Oil turns in an energized set at The Keswick

Midnight Oil | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

Playing their first Philly area show in well over a decade, Midnight Oil sounded more like a band in their prime than one into their fifth decade as performers. It was clear when they opened with their 1990 hit “King of the Mountain” that this was going to be a special night. The capacity Keswick crowd never once sat through the two-hour set, enjoying a journey through the band’s 41 year catalog. Oils’ frontman Peter Garrett oozes stage presence, gesturing and pacing, eyes piercing into the crowd as he conjures their participation. Continue reading →


Sting enthralls an intimate Fillmore crowd with a career-spanning set


Sting | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
Sting | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

Kudos to whoever was able to convince Sting to play The Fillmore in Philly, what a great booking. Packed with a crowd of just over 2000 enthusiastic fans, I expected the smaller show to be driven by new material by Sting’s recent 57th & 9th release from last year, or something more experimental. He clearly had other plans. Sting came out promptly at 8 p.m., and sat down for a solo acoustic version of “Heading South on the Great North Road.” He then left the stage for a brief warmup set from his backing band the Last Bandoleros as well as his son Joe Sumner. It has something of an old R&B feel to it with the young band just getting the crowd ready. Continue reading →


Lisa Hannigan weaves a strong, soaring setlist at Underground Arts

Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo | <a href= target="_blank"></a>
Lisa Hannigan | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

It’s been an interesting journey for Lisa Hannigan. Known first 15 years ago as the backing vocalist whose soaring duets helped launch Damien Rice to fame, she’s since outpaced him with three solo releases. I’d always considered her work with Rice her strongest and, though each solo release would have a gem or two, I typically found her voice to be stronger than her songwriting. But I had never seen her live.

Her recent tour concluded in Philadelphia, something she mentioned being really grateful for, as the city has been a great beacon of listening for her over the years. And a very full Underground Arts transformed into a listening room. Pulling mainly from her most recent and best work, At Swim, Hannigan wove a setlist that served to feature the band as much as her soaring, elemental vocals. Continue reading →


Bell X1, Vita and the Woolf make a stunning duo at Boot & Saddle

Bell X1 | photo by Joe Del Tufo |

The Bell X1 / Vita and the Woolf tour swung through Philly last night, with Vita getting a strong showing from a hometown crowd in the packed Boot & Saddle. Vita and the Woolf played a strong and especially 80s-infused set, with vocalist Jennifer Pague showing her goth side. They played a strong selection from their excellent forthcoming album Tunnels, due in April. “Brett,” “Qiet,” “Super Ranger” and Mary “have” become live staples, and got the loudest response from the crowd. I could overhear Bell X1 fans comment positively after the Vita set. Big things for this band in 2017, and I look forward to seeing them at Firefly Festival in June. Continue reading →


Shearwater highlight Jet Plane and Oxbow during spirited set at Underground Arts

Shearwater | photo by Joe del Tufo |

“This venue says it’s a place for emerging artists,” Shearwater vocalist Jonathan Meiburg mentioned early in their Underground Arts set last Saturday night. “We’ve been emerging for 15 years.” It was meant as a self-deprecating statement, but the reality is that Meiburg and band have gradually crafted a body of work that at once defies genre and stands as a bold musical statement. The massive guitars over plaintive, shimmering vocals – the mesmerizing journeys from unnamed islands to the shores of a darkening America. It’s all laid out and stripped bare in a lush layered sound that is distinctly Shearwater.

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Strand of Oaks rise with new material, message at Arden Gild Hall

Strand of Oaks | photo by Joe del Tufo |
Strand of Oaks | photo by Joe del Tufo |

Well Philly, you are in for a treat. But it happened in Delaware first.

The debut of Strand of Oaks‘ new material from the forthcoming Hard Love album happened in a barn in Delaware in front of a crowd that ranged in age from 10 to 70. “This music is for everyone who needs it right now,” frontman Timothy Showalter mentioned before the show. “As much as Heal was pointing inward, Hard Love [points straight out]. It’s an important time for that, we’re not playing around anymore.”

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Pure Rage: Helmet, Local H play a cathartic, post-election gig at World Cafe Live

Helmet | photo by Joe Del Tufo / Moonloop Photography for WXPN | <A href= target="_blank"></a>
Helmet | photo by Joe Del Tufo / Moonloop Photography for WXPN |

Last night saw a massive heavy double bill with 90s cult faves Local H and Helmet at World Cafe Live, of all places. The former came out roaring with their mix of punk and 90s grunge that set a high bar for energy and got the standing crowd moving. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Lucas was on point, ripping through favorites like “That’s What They All Say,” “High Fiving MF” and “Hands On The Bible.” Amazing sound for a two-piece and some of the best lighting I’ve seen in the venue.

Helmet was the main fare and not having seen them since 1992 (a co-bill with L7 at The Troc), I had no idea what to expect. Page Hamilton, the founder / vocalist / guitarist, is famously not your standard frontman for a metal band. He plays a very technical, mathematical jazz-influenced guitar sound that reminds me of classic Black Sabbath played by a Berklee alum with passive-aggressive issues. Continue reading →


Marillion make a statement with new LP F.E.A.R. at the Keswick Theater

Marillion | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN |

It’s hard to know where to begin reviewing a Marillion show. With over 35 years as progressive rock icons, their live history is overwhelming and complex. Even more so with the release of F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone and Run), their astounding new album that recently debuted #4 in the UK charts, an unprecedented act for an artist this deep into their career. But F.E.A.R. is not just any album, it is perhaps the best album they have written since Steve Hogarth took over as vocalist for Fish in 1989. At once an indictment of Brexit, Greed, Trump and the other powers that press down on us, it is also a much more personal look into the mirror of anxiety and disconnection. It is has teeth and is unflinching, musically and lyrically. For me F.E.A.R. is hands down the best album of 2016 which is nothing short of shocking – the equivalent of The Who suddenly releasing an album as good as Quadrophenia in 2016.

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