"Give it up for Afghan Whigs, ladies and gentlemen. Indie rock royalty," is not the first, or thousandth, thing you would ever expect to hear from Usher. But there he was at the Fader Fort Friday evening as the most incongruous special guest at South by Southwest.
It shouldn't be too shocking, really. Frontman Greg Dulli, harbinger of soul filtered through gritty, crunchy guitar rock, has has Frank Ocean's "LoveCrimes" as a set staple for a while now. But it was still surprising when, midway through a cover of Usher's "Climax," Mr. Raymond himself came out to finish the song and stay for "OMG" and the Whigs' 1998 sex ode "Somethin' Hot."
Andy Cohn, president of The Fader, said he was trying to "figure out the biggest, most surprising 'first' The Fader could bring to Austin and came up with Usher." "[Afghan Whigs'] music is influenced by soul and…Usher was totally into it."
"I don't mean to bring everybody down, but right now, one of my fellow artists and good friend Lil Wayne is going through a real hard time," said the singer. "I just wanted to send a lot of positive energy out there right now." When we look back years from now, that sentence will date the performance more than any song.
But let's focus on the music. Watch the beginning of "Climax" at 13:45 above, with Usher popping up at 16:00.