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Them Crooked Vultures, Plymouth Pavilions

10 December 2009 5,546 views No Comment

December 10th 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


Them Crooked Vultures

Few ‘supergroups’ transcend their past, but Dave Grohl’s thrilling hard rock trio may well prove the exception to the rule

Gareth Grundy The Observer


Josh Homme fronts Dave Groh’s trio Them Crooked Vultures in Plymouth last week. Photograph: Chris Williams/Live

Recently, Mojo magazine asked Dave Grohl what goes through his mind when he considers his former band mate Kurt Cobain. “You think of a rock star who killed himself because of this guilt about being a rock star,” said the one-time drummer in Nirvana, who will always be quizzed about his previous life. Spending four remarkable years in one of the last rock bands of any genuine significance is a moment in time destined to overshadow the subsequent 14 fronting the far more lucrative but utterly orthodox Foo Fighters, no matter how many stadiums they continue to fill.

Nevertheless, Grohl has always seemed to relish his success, which is only natural given the way his old band ended. Guilt over the big house, nice car and all those platinum discs has never seemed to come to into it for someone regarded as the most convivial of stars. So it’s no surprise he should fall in with two other major figures whose charisma comes from being at ease with themselves and their respective legacies. Famously, his colleagues in new band Them Crooked Vultures – Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme – were brought together not at some top-level summit in a gated mansion or mid-air powwow on a private jet, but at a medieval-themed restaurant in Los Angeles. The kind where guests eat with their hands, drink out of goblets and the birthday boy – in this case Grohl, celebrating his 40th – dons a paper crown.

It’s typical Grohl and says much about why, despite its members’ considerable pedigree, Them Crooked Vultures are less nauseating than their “supergroup” tag suggests.

True, they’ve been careful to offset their collective baggage by debuting over the summer with club gigs, low-key festival appearances and, on one occasion, a support slot for the Arctic Monkeys, whose Humbug album Homme bludgeoned, rather than produced. But look more closely at the less flashy parts of their respective CVs and they’re actually a trio who are more than happy to dial down the ego in favour of an enlivening change of scene.

Homme’s Desert Sessions sideline was built around pooling a variety of talents and once drew PJ Harvey into its orbit, while Jones has seemingly followed his nose, leading him to work with REM, shrieking art-house blues singer Diamanda Galas and, in the case of the score for 1985’s Scream for Help, Michael Winner. Grohl, who has prior history with both his new compadres, will generally pitch in alongside anyone who tweaks his inner fan boy: Paul McCartney, Queen, and, for best forgotten one-off project Probot, every veteran metal act that ever found a place on his bedroom wall.

Homme has defined Them Crooked Vultures’ mission statement thus: “We need to roll in like Hannibal and ruin your town.”He’s in luck on the first night of their UK tour. Two days ago, the sterile, sports hall-like Pavilions hosted Daniel O’Donnell, so Plymouth is in need of a good ravaging.

It takes 20 minutes for the conquest to begin, though, Homme eventually prodding the pan-generational crowd with a “don’t hold back, this is the night”. Rolling out their two best songs back-to-back does the trick, with the evening’s initial crowd-surfers hauled aloft to the ominous “New Fang” and delirious “Gunman”. Both reveal what’s really going on here as Jones’s nimble bass lifts two players who, in their day jobs, have tended towards the ponderous of late. Led Zeppelin were a rock’n’roll band, with a spring in their step, while Grohl and Homme are very much sons of rock alone.

Serene throughout, Jones is like their dashing uncle and Homme remains an engagingly unconventional front man, all-American but slightly seedy, as if, somewhere in the past, he swapped the Marine Corps for a biker gang. Grohl’s facility as a drummer remains – remember, that heart-in-mouth intro to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” depended as much on him as the guitar riff. This evening, every fill is a small burst of artillery fire: fierce, precise and felt in the solar plexus, especially as “Bandoliers” winds towards conclusion.

On record, Them Crooked Vultures, are, like most supergroups, prone to self-indulgence, their debut album, released last month, being a few songs too long as well as heavy on tunes meandering beyond five minutes. They make much more sense live, where overwhelming force and an obvious joy in playing together carries the day. Inevitably, there are intermittent outbreaks of nodding, but no one seems to mind Jones’s lengthy keyboard solo at the end of “Spinning in Daffodils”. In fact, it receives an ovation. Play on Kashmir and you’ll be forgiven anything, it seems.

They leave without an encore, having served up their entire catalogue to date, the whole band, auxiliary rhythm guitarist included, stepping forward for a bow, very much a group in its own right. A highly convincing one, at that.


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