Them Crooked Vultures @ Metro, Chicago 8/9/09
After three days of extreme sweat and fatigue from running between stages in Grant Park for Lollapalooza (post TK), ordinarily there'd be zero appeal to a midnight Sunday show in an overcapacity rock club without a working air conditioner. But there was nothing ordinary about last night's gig at the 1,100-person Metro in Wrigleyville. And it went even deeper than the trio of marquee rock stars at the center of it all: with record leaks having killed the "event" of the album release, and YouTube and music blogs (ahem) making it impossible to resist hearing a band's new live songs before they come to your town and present them personally, there's no such thing as a communal listening experience anymore. But this was one time where everyone was in the same boat. Nobody knew what to expect from Them Crooked Vultures, aside from that Dave Grohl/Josh Homme/John Paul Jones lineup that sounded like an alt rock holiday party in-joke gone too far -- not a song's leaked, not a descriptor afloat aside from Dave's 2005 assertion that this group "wouldn't suck." He didn't set the bar high, but hey. He was right.
Before the show the Metro sidewalk was a mob scene, or at least a mob scene for midnight on a Sunday on the heels of a three-day festival with the sort of weather conditions that should have sucked dry these people's wills to live, or wills to see music live. People on the sidewalk joked they wouldn't give up their tickets for anything less than $2,000, although I suspect that wasn't much of a joke at all. Once inside, those same people probably would have paid that amount to get an air conditioner, but no matter: the Metro was a sweatbox, the transferred perspiration just one more thing bonding all those in the room holding essentially a priceless ticket. And out walked Them Crooked Vultures shortly after midnight.
The band: Josh Homme on guitar and lead vocals, Dave Grohl on drums, John Paul Jones on you know what. Plus, for last night's show at least, there was a fourth Crooked Vulture: longtime Homme affiliate Alain Johannes held down rhythm guitar and joined Grohl and Jones on the occasional backing vocal and hollerback harmony. A supergroup of three big names with a lower-profile fourth? Familiar. Last night I called them Monsters Of Rock.
The music was full of big riffs and QOTSA stomp and grit, occasionally proggy segues melding dirty blues rock to a more alt, grungy thump. Grohl may have slipped into his Bonham worship mode on the big beats and bigger fills, or maybe that's just what you hear when half a band's rhythm section happened to be in Led Zeppelin. Josh, for his part, is not Jimmy Page. Nor is he Robert Plant. He's Homme through and through, and in taking vocals and guitars he more than defines the dynamic. So ultimately it was a Homme-led affair that was QOTSAy in its essence with overtures to the other dudes' primary affiliations at the periphery. There were outliers, naturally: "Daffodils" was a spacey, psychedelic epic closing with a John Paul Jones piano outro (and subsequent show-stopping applause), another featured a long jazzy improv with JPJ taking the bass for a walk under a fiery two-guitar solo session that hit sorta like a steroidal Allmans jam.
Songs had titles like "Scumbag Blues," "Caligulove," "Interlude With Ludes," and "Bandoliers." There were something like 14 of them in total I think. There was no encore. It wasn't particularly innovative, and it wasn't always interesting, but that set-closer, "Nobody Loves Me"? Awesome. That's your big-riffed hit right there. Which means we'll probably have it for you soon. And with that many original songs already under their belts, we'll probably have a full record to report on for you soon, too.
In the spirit of an old-school communal listening experience, cameras and the like were forbidden. That said, we'll include a/v footage when it surfaces.
Them Crooked Vultures (Metro - August 10, 2009)
Three words: Them Crooked Vultures. Five additional words: are the greatest band ever. On August 10, the Metro was sold out, the house lights went down, the audence screamed and Them Crooked Vultures made their debut. To call it the greatest debut ever is like calling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a mere center or Bruce Lee a simple martial artist. To call it promising would severely downplay the talent of the band's members and the songs that spanned their 77 minute debut.
Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones took the stage with nothing to lose and nothing really to prove other than to simply rock and they did exactly that. Accompanied by an Alain Johannes of Eleven, Them Crooked Vultures performed a set of unheard, unreleased material that left the remants and sounds of their more familiar bands at home. Instead, they brought forth a sound that rocked, was funky, bluesy and, overall, nothing short of jaw dropping.
"Last Breath Before Giving In" gave the audience a small breather with its awe-inspiring, jazz-influenced instrumental section with Homme soloing over a changing tempo provided by Jones and Grohl. "Gunmen" provided one of the two funky numbers of the night with a pseudo-funk rhythm section combining with two rock guitars and ending with Jones on keyboards. "Mind Eraser And Night Chaser" was a full on rock assault which included synths and the use of a Korg Kaossilator.
The overall performance was tighter than one would expect from a band performing all new material and for their first live performance. Grohl sang backup for several songs all while smiling and pounding the drums until you could feel the hits of the bass and tom resonating through the floor. Jones shifted from four to eight string basses, keyboards, Korg Kaossilators and, yes, a keytar, which received one of the biggest applauses from the audience. Homme led the band with his trademark solos and voice as well as dropping the guitar for a number to slink around on the stage and display his dance moves. There are bands who dream of sounding as perfect as this, even during a rehearsal. Given the pedigree and achievements of it's members, it would be hard to imagine them performing anything less than perfect, in their songs or as a band.
Them Crooked Vultures isn't just another supergroup. Based off tonight alone, they're a group that could singlehandly bring Rock back to the top of the Billboard charts. It's Rock minus trends, images, fake emotions and anyone picking up guitars and claiming that they rock. Iggy Pop recently called today's rock a bunch of "idiot thugs with guitars" and while that statement may be true in certain areas of Rock, it definitely wasn't at the Metro this morning. Instead, you were introduced to three decades of great musicians and songwriters where Rock's past joined together with Rock's present to form a future that is worth looking forward to. If this performance and these songs are any indicator as to what to expect from their debut album, then it has already been handed "Album Of The Year."
Them Crooked Vultures at Metro
By Jim DeRogatis August 10, 2009 2:45 AM
The best show by far of Lollapalooza 2009 really was part of Lollapalooza in name only: the after-show at Metro in the wee hours of Monday morning that marked the world premier of Them Crooked Vultures, the new supergroup featuring Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl and the legendary John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.
Sources said the band turned down the chance to replace the Beastie Boys when they dropped off the Lollapalooza bill as Adam Yauch battled cancer; apparently, the new group preferred to make its debut in a much more intimate setting. (Instead of the potential crowd of 75,000 that would have seen the band in Grant Park, it played instead to 1,100 at Metro, mostly hardcore fans of Homme and Grohl lucky enough to get tickets after a fan club notification.)
Addressing the setting for this auspicious bow, Homme said, "We could have done this in L.A." As he pantomimed a well-endowed woman performing a rude sexual act, the crowd cheered wildly. "That's why came here!" he added. "We came to Chicago because we wanted to play Metro!"
During an amazing 12-song, 80-minute set, Them Crooked Vultures went on to prove it is one the rarest things in rock: a supergroup that not only deserves that appellation, but which actually is greater than the sum of its storied parts.
With second guitarist and occasional keyboardist Alain Johannes, another veteran of Queens of the Stone Age, augmenting the star trio, the heart of the sound owed a lot to that band's brand of hypnotic but intense stoner rock, as well as to the more spacey and bluesy sounds of Homme's earlier group, Kyuss. Grohl also played for a time with the Queens, after their third album, "Songs for the Deaf" (2002). But as great as that group has been at various points, Them Crooked Vultures take the sound to a whole new level.
Simply put, Jones has enhanced any musical setting he's ever graced with his classy and virtuosic presence, whether it's been producing the Butthole Surfers, performing in a trio with art-rocker Diamanda Galas or serving as the solid anchor that grounded his larger-than-life band mates in Zep. And as obsessive rock fans who grew up worshipping Jimmy Page and John Bonham, Homme and Grohl seemed thrilled to be standing onstage with one of their heroes, and they pushed themselves to new heights to prove that they deserved the honor.
One of the hardest-hitting percussionists of his generation, Grohl seemed even more intense in this setting than he'd been during his stint with the Queens, hammering his snare with both hands to create a massive backbeat, firing off rapid fire single-stroke rolls that made his single bass drum sound like two, and playing long and complicated fills between hi-hat, snare and rack tom without ever losing the songs' propulsive drive.
Indeed, the complexity of the arrangements in tunes such as "Elephants" and "Caligulove" bordered at times on progressive rock--both of the old-school Yes variety, and the more modern Tool flavor. But the fact that the quartet never lost that forward momentum or the essential gritty blues growl made the music more of a full-body hard-rock experience than a cerebral study in musicianship, even when Jones sat at the keyboard to add a lovely coda to "Daffodils," or moved from a six-string bass, to eight strings, to 10 strings and finally to a mystery instrument that resembled a strap-on lap steel guitar with a built-in digital screen.
Homme handled most of the lead vocals, though Grohl, Jones and Johannes all traded off on backing parts. As for the thematic concerns of the material--well, it's never been easy to discern what Homme is singing about onstage, and we'll just have to wait to figure that out until the group releases its debut album, "Never Deserved the Future," on Oct. 23.
If the Metro show was any indication, the disc should be a stunner. The band presumably played the entire album--there was no encore--and only one song fell flat: "Interlude w/ Ludes," an alien lounge tune that found Jones on keytar and Homme putting down his ax to slink around the stage like an unholy combination of Dean Martin and Tom Jones.
Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age supergroup make live debut
Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones take to the stage in Chicago
August 10, 2009
The supergroup featuring members of Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and Queens Of The Stone Age made their live debut in the early hours of this morning (August 10).
Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Josh Homme's group, Them Crooked Vultures were due to take the stage at midnight (EST) at Chicago's Metro venue.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Grohl played drums, Homme took the guitar and vocals, while Jones was on bass and keyboards.
Earlier the venue had confirmed that the gig kicked off by posting a marquee sign boasting Them Crooked Vultures as the sold-out show was about to start.
The Chicago Tribune August 10, 2009
Concert review: Them Crooked Vultures at Metro
by Greg Kot
The term "super group" gets thrown around way too often in rock, but in the case of Them Crooked Vultures, it applies.
The group consists of the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl on drums, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme on guitar, and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards. The trio made its international debut and capped off Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago with a 75-minute performance that began at midnight Monday at a jam-packed Metro.
Grohl discussed his hopes for the group as many as four years ago, and the three have been working on an album in Los Angeles this year. But the music has been a mystery; none of the tracks has leaked on the Internet, and the group's future plans are shrouded in secrecy. After debuting a dozen songs at Metro, the group made it very clear that it's not only for real, but also has the chance to be the exception to the super-group rule. Most of these Frankenstein projects usually end up being less than the sum of their parts, but Crooked Vultures sounded like it was on to something fresh, invigorating and just plain nasty.
Grohl is in many ways the linchpin. One of the great drummers in rock, he was the man who put the wallop in Nirvana, and also anchored the finest Queens of the Stone Age album, "Songs for the Deaf" (2002). His work on this night was astonishing, a clinic in brute force and finesse that was exhilarating and exhausting to observe at close quarters.
Homme handled lead vocals and guitar, and was unusually clear-eyed and affable, playing with more precision than he usually musters in Queens. And Jones, whose music with Led Zeppelin is an obvious touchstone for both his bandmates, was a huge presence with his variety of four-, six- and eight-string basses, a match for Grohl's power and a counterpoint for Homme's melodies. The group was rounded out by Queens alumnus Alain Johannes on guitar.
The set's foundation was hard rock and hard edges, with Jones and Grohl going toe-to-toe in the engine room. Homme played more with texture and layering sounds on his guitar, the first memorable riff showing up four songs into the set on "Dead End Friends." His high vocals were often bolstered by harmonies from Grohl, Johannes and even Jones. There were a couple of red herrings: "Bandoliers"" flirted with tenderness (Homme introduced it as a love song) and "Interlude w/ Ludes" came off as a prank, with Jones on keytar and a shimmying Homme in lounge-crooner mode. Otherwise, it was wrecking ball time, with the arrangements sometimes taking several turns before resolving.
Two epic tracks stood out. "Daffodils," which hinted at psychedelia with reverb effects on the vocals and a massive bass tone, was capped by a Jones piano solo. And "Warsaw" ebbed and flowed, winding down to a low-key guitar-bass exchange before building back up into a slamming finale.
History tells us that super groups usually don't last very long. But at least this particular one is off to a rousing start.