Them Crooked Vultures, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Foo Fighter's/Nirvana's Dave Grohl, Queen of a Stones Age's Josh Homme, and Alain Johannes, stepped on the Sound Academy stage in Toronto without fanfare or introduction, and spent an hour and a half blowing the roof off the place. Loud, tight and played at a pace that can rightfully be described as frantic, Them Crooked Vultures didn't let up from beginning to end.
The show began with Elephants, shifting time signatures throughout, Them Crooked Vultures announced immediately they weren't just another band. John Paul Jones stepped out with an 8 string bass, but didn't stay with it long as he changed instruments with every song: the 8 string, a regular bass, a slide bass, a keytar, piano, and a baritone jogamathingy, complete with skyward facing strings and built in TV set (lest he miss his favorite soccer team?).
Jones played with a relaxed calm that belied the thunderous power emanating from himself and his band-mates. Looking at his ease and enjoying himself, Jones even stepped to the microphone for a call and response type verse. His piano solo was shorter than fans of his earlier work are used to, but satisfactorily familiar for that. I couldn't help but wonder if he would call his new piano solo two-bits, as his ex-band mates had stolen no quarter from him in an earlier incarnation.
Unlike Jones' calm detached concentration, drummer Dave Grohl was channeling the Muppets Animal: head bobbing, hair flying, sticks pounding in a frantic blast of timekeeping. Unfortunately, Grohl eschewed a drum riser (or at lease a riser of any significance), making him virtually invisible over heads in the packed house. That aside, his playing was top notch, showing no signs of rust for having spent the past ten years fronting the Foo Fighters instead of drumming. It's not easy to keep in drummer shape, but Grohl kept it up for the full set, with no breath catching ballads to be found. Alain Johannes filled out the rhythm section with solid guitar duties, as well as playing bass when Jones' played his horizontal slide TV.
As a guitar player I can say with authority it would be a dream to play in front of such a rhythm section, but at the end of the day, Them Crooked Vultures are a Josh Homme vehicle as much as anything else. He fronts the band, he sings, he plays lead guitar. However, Homme's vocal was lower in the mix than is usual, and the vocals got lost in the thunderclap rhythm section. Technical nit-pickery aside, Them Crooked Vultures blew away a jam packed house at The Sound Academy, a startling achievement considering none of the music is available for public consumption as of yet.
Setlist (from setlist.fm)
- Dead End Friends
- Scumbag Blues
- New Fang
- Interlude w/ ludes
- Mind Eraser
- Nobody Loves Me
No introduction necessary: Singer Homme introduced Dave Grohl and Alain Johannes, but when it came to Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, he merely pointed to Jones side of the stage before the crowd roared in approval. Despite the lack of formal introduction, by evenings end chants of "John Paul Jones, John Paul Jones..." could be heard between songs.
The very strict no camera policy seen at some TCV shows seemed to relax on this evening, possibly because the size of the crowd made any form of enforcement impossible. That said, heavy use of back lighting by the band made taking decent pictures a challenge.
A variety of t-shirts, as well as a touque style hat was available for sale.