By Johnny Firecloud at 12:28 PM Friday, October 2nd 2009
The term supergroup is about as shit-cheesy as the name Chickenfoot and should likewise be rejected outright. That being said, whatever words are being used to describe the perfect storm of Rock that is Them Crooked Vultures certainly don’t do the band justice.
We arrived in Texas for the Austin City Limits festival yesterday in time to catch the warm-up club gig by Them Crooked Vultures, which also served as the opener for the band’s North American tour. Sweaty, crammed bodies in the sweltering Southern heat throbbed in understandable shit-grinning awe as Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Alain Johannes ripped through a thirteen-song set that stretched nearly ninety minutes and was packed with more swagger, groove and all-out pounding Rock assault than anyone had dared to expect.
The crowd was a roaring beast of approval from the moment the band first appeared onstage, but the reactions intensified exponentially when it became clear that the sum of the band’s immensely impressive individual parts transcends any possible expectation.
As for the songs themselves, there was zero filler, zero beer-break ballads. Every moment of every song was somehow captivating, whether it was Jones rocking a 12-string bass as Homme shredded a squealing solo, or Grohl giving his drums a beating like they’ve never seen before. The band reveled in the fact that the crowd had no idea what the hell they were in for, making good on our trust at every given opportunity. Daffodils featured a beautiful keyboard outro by Jones, who then strapped on a keytar for Interlude w/Ludes, a sex-lounge jam that found frontman Homme trading his guitar for seductive poses all across the stage. Reptiles followed, a definite show highlight that brought the group in a tight circle around Dave’s kit, riding tight through several false endings, sharp turns and mindblowing rhythmic interactions through the course of what felt like twenty minutes.
Another highlight was Scumbag Blues, an extended, slutty number that was nearly as memorable for Grohl’s absolutely primal kit-beatings and unabashed eye-fucking of John Paul Jones than for the music itself. It’s evident just from his expressions that every show Grohl plays with the band may as well be Christmas morning for the guy. The gathering is literally a dream come true for the Foo Fighters frontman. Hell, he’s got dead Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s Zoso symbol tattooed on his wrist, so there’s no question of his respect for JPJ’s history.
You’re reading this on an internet music site. A blog. So I understand that by default the hyperbole shields are up at full power, especially given that this new project is the darling of every music outlet in existence – but there are simply not enough good things to say about this band. Sure, the shitty YouTube clips are great, and give at least an indication of what to expect. But at full volume, free of digital confines and compression, Them Crooked Vultures are without question the most exciting live act making the rounds today. And before anyone starts naming better guitarists or other Led Zeppelin members they’d rather fellate, what earns TCV that title is the multitude of sonic surprises, the stop-starts, the changes and time signatures that are near-impossible to follow, but not to the point of getting lost in a musical labyrinth.
Look for a reason to bitch, about any show, and you’re bound to find something. But for people who are as hopeless in their addiction to great music as we are, just trust us on this one. This band is fucking amazing.
Band photo credit: Craig Hlavaty