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Them Crooked Vultures, Birmingham O2 Academy

14 December 2009 699 views No Comment

December 14th 2009

Set List

No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
Dead End Friends
Scumbag Blues
Highway One
New Fang
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
Interlude with Ludes
Spinning in Daffodils
Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up


Rock supergroup swoop for spectacular night

Birmingham O2 Academy

Words and pictures by James Watkins

Dave Grohl shows his appreciation to the crowd

New sensationalist rock “supergroup” Them Crooked Vultures – or TCV as they are now commonly known – landed in the Midlands on Monday night to unleash songs from their huge-selling self-titled debut album.

The momentous collaboration of some of rock’s finest in messers Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), brought about an air of anticipation that the O2 Academy has never before seen.

Instead of the band being assembled like a rich-man’s football play-thing, this remarkable formation has been brought about through the band’s initiator, Dave Grohl, who declared his desire to start a new project.

Grohl was keen to give up the microphone and centre stage and revert to his tub-thumping Nirvana days of being hidden behind the drumkit.


Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones kept the rhythm

Little did anybody know who was waiting in the wings, in the form of former Led Zeppelin bassist, John Paul Jones, and Queens of the Stone Age vocalist, Josh Homme.

With their five-date UK tour selling out in mere minutes, TCV have already begun to take the world by storm with their unparalleled gutsy sound and fresh ideas.

Walking onto the stage looking stunned as the Birmingham crowd as they broke into a furore of noise, TCV quite literally started the show with a bang by playing the impressive Nobody Loves Me, that saw the 3,000-strong crowd jumping up and down to its pounding bass line and clinical drums.

Monday was one of those evenings when fans felt privileged to be witnessing something special and something very different – for me it was seeing Dave Grohl reunited with his drum kit, but for many, the sight of Led Zeppelin’s lesser well-known band member stomping up and down the stage like a marching guard alongside Josh Homme was sheer ecstasy.

Rolling through album tracks Scumbag Blues, Elephants and Mind Eraser, it fast became clear that this was the best performance of the year at the all-new Academy.

Simply put – TCV were just in a different league to any other rock band of the year. Maybe it was the rawness of the sound or the over the top jamming that added an extra dimension to each song – or maybe it was just a band that thoroughly understands their music. After all they have amassed millions of album sales between them over the past two decades and they’re playing for the love of it – not the money.

Finishing the 90 minute set-list with Reptiles and an extended version of Warsaw, the crowd showed their appreciation for TCV’s immense grandeur with a thunderous ovation that seemed to last an eternity.

All that was left  was for the world’s finest “supergroup” to join arms and take a bow in front of their newly-adoring fans asking the question. Are TCV ready to take on the world or is the world ready for Them Crooked Vultures?


Them Crooked Vultures in Birmingham O2 Academy

The Foo / Zep / Queens Of The Stone Age “supergroup” are in the midst of a UK tour and Planet Rock was at the O2 Academy in Birmingham last night to see if they could live up to the amazing hype that surrounds them.
To put Them Crooked Vultures into context, they are a band made up of friends-who-happen-to-be-rock-stars that sold out a reasonably large UK tour in hours with less than a minute’s worth of material officially released into the public domain and with absolutely no advertising. Their self-titled debut album has no official singles and barely a chorus to call its own, and its melting pot mix of hard rock, jazz, stoner-rock, psychedelia, punk and even funk has confounded much of the world’s population who were expecting Foo Fighters Mk.2. This is no ordinary band.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole project, however, is that this indefinable and wilfully difficult group have just played one of the best and most fun concerts of the whole year and one of the most memorable in many years.
As you would expect from a band with just one album their 90 minute set contains the whole of their debut album plus one new/unreleased song called ‘Highway One’. The album highlights (‘Nobody Loves Me ‘, ‘Gunman’ and ‘Elephant’) translate into the live highlights too – but unlike the album, there is no drop in either intensity or quality. While the album has a small half-time lull, the live show ramps up the intensity, noise and fun, building towards an epic crescendo that closes the set during ‘Warsaw’.
Very little can be said about the individual members of the band that hasn’t been said before – Josh Homme remains one of the most underrated song-writers around, Dave Grohl is a whirling dervish of hair and arms who DOES resemble Animal from the Muppets but is undoubtedly THE best hard rock drummer on the planet, and John Paul Jones is doing nothing to disprove the recent theory that he was actually the secret weapon in Zeppelin all along – the noise he makes with his bass/keyboard/keytar/mandolin is mind-blowing and he could have filled the venue with noise on his own.
This is not really about the individual members, however.  It’s likely that a percentage of the tickets sold last night were so that teenage girls could just gaze at Dave Grohl, but fundamentally this band is about the collective musical soul of messrs Grohl, Homme and Jones and the noise that they make as a unit. The camaraderie is utterly apparent onstage as they use each other to drive themselves on, often grouping together in a huddle as a trio, but it’s when they seem to invite the audience into their world to share in the experience that the show becomes really special.
Live, the songs are given an impetus missing on record, with the rhythm section given increased prominence which in turn gives the whole thing a greater drive. Each of the members is given the opportunity to shine on their own and the baton of carrying the whole show often passes subtly between them, either through a drum fill, a bassline or a guitar solo. Homme remains the sole voice of the band, but he seems much more jovial than when he plays with his other band, the Queens Of The Stone Age. And it is perhaps the lack of pressure that allows the three members to shine – the weight of expectation is spread collectively across their shoulders, and really they don’t care about the expectations anyway. You get the impression that they would have been happy to keep this collaboration private, but the fact that they can share it with the world is just a happy bonus.
It has to be said that the intimacy, noise and, indeed, temperature that mid-level size venues such as these Academies generate lends itself perfectly to the music that Them Crooked Vultures creates. If this music were played in an arena sized venue it simply would not work and would in all likelihood be castrated by its surroundings. Part of the simple joy at last nights show was down to the fact that you were watching three superstars (relatively) up-close. We were lucky enough to catch TCV at their secret Reading Festival show back in August but in that environment we barely caught a glimpse of how good they could be.
If this project proves to have legs further than the solitary album/tour that most so-called “supergroups” can manage then you simply MUST see them if/when you can. Forget the misconceptions that the album may have given you – just buy into the fact that this is the most interesting, most unusual and most unique rock band to have emerged in 2009.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what made this show so resolutely impressive. Most of the people in the audience will not have been to a show like it before, and it’s entirely possible that they never will again. Perhaps you have to have been there…  Perhaps, like the album, it defies definition or explanation…  Perhaps they simply put something into water and we all imagined it… Whatever the case, this was very, VERY special and if you are heading to any of the shows on the remainder of the tour and they put in a show half as good as this then you are very lucky indeed.


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