Them Crooked Vultures – Aragon, Chicago, IL
Concert review: Them Crooked Vultures at Aragon
No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
Dead End Friends
Interlude with Ludes
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
You Can’t Possibly Begin to Imagine
Spinning in Daffodils
Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up
“We think you’re our hometown, Chicago,” said singer Josh Homme as Them Crooked Vultures wound down a two-hour show Tuesday at the sold-out Aragon.
Chicago has a special place in Vultures’ history. Last summer, the trio of Homme, drummer Dave Grohl and bassist John Paul Jones made its live debut at Metro. Anticipation was high in that very few people had heard even a note of music from the group with the exalted pedigree, and the trio delivered with a breath-taking display: a compressed, concentrated blast of hard-rock aggression from three masters of the genre. Ears are still ringing.
In the band’s first Chicago appearance since that sweltering August evening, the Vultures essentially played the same set. But the approach was more expansive and slightly less focused, with a few dead spots framed by some thrilling interplay.
The group’s storied past – Jones with Led Zeppelin, Homme with Queens of the Stone Age, Grohl with Nirvana and Foo Fighters – promised there would be no shortage of muscle (they were ably abetted by multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes). With the affable, bearded Grohl on drums and the deceptively reserved Jones on bass, the Vultures maintained a rhythmic ferocity throughout. Melodies were almost an afterthought.
The night’s most thrilling moment came during “Scumbag Blues” when Grohl jumped on a Homme guitar solo with a ferocious drum flurry on the snares, toms and cymbals, then shifted to thunderous volleys on his kick drum – shades of Jones’ old sparring partner, John Bonham. Not to be outdone, Jones got into the act when he answered Grohl’s bursts with a series of bass fills that brought cheers from the audience.
More than anything, the show punctuated just how mighty a drummer Grohl is, not just bringing the straight-ahead power with sticks crashing down from a position somewhere above his flailing hair, but the swing and syncopation. “Elephants” was a rousing evocation of epic, “Physical Graffiti”-style funk-metal, and brought a smile from Jones, whose bass excavated a groove through even the most treacherous tempo changes.
But the show slowed down after a superfluous Johannes guitar solo, followed by several of the weaker tracks from the Vultures’ self-titled debut album. More linear, conventionally constructed rock songs didn’t play to the group’s strengths, and the palette-cleanser “Interlude with Ludes” still is a drag, lounge parody or not.
Things picked up as the show headed toward the finish, with the guitarists and Jones throwing up cyclones of sound on “Spinning in Daffodils” and “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up” lurching like a primordial beast in a tar pit before breaking into a charge. It was enough to make one hope this wasn’t the Vultures final trip “home.”