I can’t imagine Josh Homme was too popular with the Corn Exchange staff, who are more at home doing wedding receptions and corporate events, when he told the sold out crowd they were welcome to climb on peoples’ shoulders, drink heavily and crowd surf.
Probably even less popular when he handed his half-necked bottle of vodka into the crowd for them to pass around.
But this “we’re going to do it anyway” motto is one that Them Crooked Vultures seem to subscribe to strongly. It’s clear that the band are playing the music they want to play. Clearly written in jams, it seems very little thought has been put into mundane nuances like catchiness, commerciality and accessibility. Instead the band favour concepts like ‘edge’, ‘balls’, and how fun the song is to play.
The three piece are the very definition of a hard rock supergroup, made up of Josh Homme, of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, playing the drums, and John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin, playing the bass; three household names in the world of rock music.
That effectively gives them license to do whatever they want (and apparently encourage the crowd to do the same), and what they’ve decided they want to do it play riff-driven tunes with lots of heavy guitars, noisy bass parts and keyboard parts.
While the songs often flirt with some brilliant riffs, they seem to go off on sonic adventures and lose focus. Most of their tunes probably go on too long to be radio friendly as well. However, you can’t fault the band on their variety. While at times they play White Stripes-style dirty blues, at other times they experiment with high doses of psychedelia, and then they fall into some alternative metal and come out of it dripping with distortion and feedback.
It will be surprising to some to learn that Josh Homme is the only one of the gang who is on microphone duty. Not even Dave Grohl, who is completely confident in front of the microphone in his own band, interacted with the audience at all. He just hid behind his long hair and massive drums, just like the Nirvana days, and supplied the occasional harmony.
John Paul Jones’ contribution was indeed significant. Playing some electric piano, as well as riff bass and stretching the instrument to play sub-bass, the elder statesmen of the trio held his own against the young bucks. Although there is really no excuse good enough to get away with coming on stage with a 12 string bass.
The fourth corner of the square is Alain Johannes, who is joining the trio for the tour. A virtuoso guitar player, the band even gave him a chance to perform some solo blues guitar. As he slid and jammed all over the fretboard, Johannes held the crowd in the palm of his hand, and he’s just the session player.
Overall, as rule-breaking as they may act, Them Crooked Vultures are not re-writing the book of rock, but the audience went there to see three of their heroes rock hard, and that’s what they got.