Show Review

The Whigs, Riverbend

Brian Ahnmark
As thrilling as it must be to take the stage at an outdoor amphitheater, it's hard to envy the band whose name is in the tiny print on the marquee on a triple bill.

If Athens, GA trio The Whigs were at all intimidated on Saturday night – by the Riverbend Music Center or their touring mates, The Black Keys and Kings of Leon – it sure as hell didn't show.

The Whigs have concocted a potent recipe to slay the apathetic amphitheater crowd: rock-solid songcraft and a rambunctious stage presence custom-made to move the masses. Singer-guitarist Parker Gispert, bassist Tim Deaux and drummer Julian Dorio didn't seem out of place at all in the spacious confines of the Riverbend. In fact, they clearly feasted upon the challenge of inspiring the lethargic early birds to boogie.

The Whigs' well-oiled body slam of a live show packed an awful lot into 30 minutes. Opening with the anthemic “Already Young” from 2008's Mission Control, the band wisely stuck to its bread and butter, delivering punishing melodic nuggets with dramatic seizures built in. Dorio conducted the mayhem, shuffling about the kit with lightning precision and ferocity. His bass drum heartbeat damn near parted the Ohio River on “Right Hand On My Heart,” the band's best-known (and arguably best, period) song.

Even “Dying,” a brooding jam from 2010's In The Dark, morphed into a monster on stage. “No need to get hushed,” Gispert said as he introduced the tune, perhaps slyly foreshadowing the jarring transformation to come. Dorio's pistons-in-disguise-as-arms hammered mercilessly at a mess of cymbals as the band earned one of several spontaneous standing ovations from a crowd that had been content to sit on its thumbs.

Not bad for the underdogs – although with performances like these, they won't stay underdogs for long.

Already Young
Black Lotus
Hot Bed
Right Hand On My Heart
Like A Vibration
Need You Need You