Live Music + Gig Reviews

Them Crooked Vultures @ Academy, Birmingham

14 December 2009

Supergroups can be, by their very nature, bloated affairs, the collective nature of the band blown apart by ego and vanity trips. Yet in their short career so far there’s been enough evidence that Them Crooked Vultures may have some longevity.

The stellar line up of Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl first appeared in the summer, making surprise festival appearances and supporting Arctic Monkeys in Birmingham. From the outset, it was clear that was something special about this trio.

It’s all about chemistry. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that mixing the drummer from Nirvana, the bass player from Led Zeppelin and the man who is, to all intents and purposes, Queens Of The Stone Age is going to result in a noise that all rock fans can admire.

If the resultant album fell short of expectaction (and, let’s be honest it did – it was too long and prone to bouts of that Achilles heel of supergroups, self-indulgence), it’s live that Them Crooked Vultures really make sense. After all, part of the thrill is being in the same room as three of the most influential musicians of their generations and watching them interact with each other.

And it’s clear that Homme, Jones and Grohl are having the time of their lives on stage. Every so often, Grohl can be seen beaming over his drumkit at Homme, who in turn squares up to Jones, Homme obviously thrilled to bits at having the opportunity to jam with one of his heroes.

The music is very QOTSA, but with a much needed lightness of touch provided by Jones. The woozy desert rock of opening track No One Loves Me (And Neither Do I) is delivered with an invigorating, exhilarating rush, and following it with the grinding Dead End Friends means that the steam is already rising from the mosh-pit within the first few minutes.

Crowd interaction is kept to a minimum (consisting mainly of Homme saying “y’all having a good time, Birmingham?”) but nobody’s expecting wisecracks here. It’s all about the juggernaut riffs of Elephant or watching Dave Grohl forget about the MOR rock of Foo Fighters and get back to what he does best; it’s been easy to forget over the last few years that Grohl is one of the finest drummers out there.

At times there’s some self-indulgent noodling going on – Interlude To Ludes could easily be cut, and surely only a figure as legendary as John Paul Jones can get away with two bass solos and an extended piano coda at the end of Spinning With Daffodils? Yet, at their best, as on the mighty double whammy of New Fang and Gunman, TCV sound like no other rock band on earth.

There’s also something pleasingly old-school about the whole venture. After the awe-inspiring jam which ends Warsaw, there’s no encore and the houselights go up to the incongrous sound of Roy Orbison. Judging by the faces of the crowd streaming out of the Birmingham Academy, nobody wants these three to go back to their day jobs just yet.

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