Artist: Them Crooked Vultures
Venue: Roseland Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: The Brought Low
Label: Interscope Records
You’ve most likely heard about the super group that’s been assembled by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters recently, and if you are still unaware of what I am referring to then let me get you up to speed. According to research the little project actually had its first mention in an interview with Grohl back in 2005 but would not come to fruition until 2009. I guess it was okay to wait for this because the band places his drumming talents alongside guitarist/singer Josh Homme from the Queens Of The Stone Age and on bass none other than John Paul Jones who played with that little outfit we call Led Zeppelin. Musically this is an enterprise that has a lot of potential and while the band performed in NYC once before back in November, I was unable to attend that show and instead would be seeing it for the first time myself this evening. That show sold out and oddly enough there was no album to sell to the fans and yet they all came in droves. That was pretty cool to learn about and since that time the guys have released their debut and self-titled album so I anticipated this evening’s show selling out as well. Here is how the night went down for those who didn’t join in on the fun.
By the time the doors had opened at the Roseland Ballroom the line to get in had extended well around the corner and since I knew it would be better to come in just before the first band went on and avoid the majority of this showing of humanity, I chose to arrive a little before 8pm. It seemed as though with so many people to let in and be checked by security that this was a bad idea as there were throngs of people still on line and making their way in with less than ten minutes before the opening act went on. It’s good to know that a crowded show like this is best arrived for early especially if you wish to see the lead off bands. Given the bone cold temperature of the NYC night that we were dealing with I chose to break bread and beverage with friends at a nearby bar as opposed to becoming a music media popsicle by standing on the incredibly long line. I arrived just in time for the sole openers for the show, a NYC band called The Brought Low.
The Brought Low: This three piece outfit performed commendably and tonight would be my first time even hearing about them. I enjoyed their brand of Hard Rock as it had some great riffs and grooves to it. They are signed to Small Stone Records and their latest album to my knowledge is entitled “Right On Time”. Their third release will actually be called “Third Record”. They are Brooklyn based so I felt some kinship with them being a resident myself and feel that if you are looking for a band with a vintage Hard Rock sound ala middle 70’s or so that you might like them. I guess you can label this as “retro” since many bands are utilizing the classic vibe again and making some positive noise with it. Think of bands like Wolfmother, The Answer and you will know more about what I am saying here. The group is fronted by Benjamin Howard Smith who sings and plays guitar while bass and drums are handled by Robert Russell and Nick Heller respectively. They seemed to go over well with the audience and while there were still bodies filing into the venue, it was safe to say that they performed to a very crowded space and were not heckled. Good luck guys, I will catch you again that’s for sure and I recommend them for any fans of the pure Hard Rock and Stoner vibe. Now it was time for the main event and you could feel this electricity for this one without question.
TCV: Before the band took to the stage I had the chance opportunity to speak with some of the fans that were pressing up against one of the side gates. It was a diverse mix of age and gender and based on this I wanted to know who exactly they were here to see. When I posed the question I immediately got the response of “Them Crooked Vultures dude” which while obviously correct, was not exactly the information that I was looking for. Upon pressing the issue a little deeper I and after rolling my eyes to the fan that gave me the quick comment, I stressed that I meant which member of the band drew them to the show the most and I found an equal mix across the board. There were fans of singer Josh Homme, those at the ready for power house drummer Dave Grohl and of course many holding the sword high for the unequivocal music legend, bassist John Paul Jones. Of course this sword holding was purely in spirit as this was a Hard Rock show and not one of the Viking adventures that we often undertake. Suddenly the lights went super bright as the band walked onstage to nothing less than deafening applause. Obviously this was a show that many people had been looking forward to and everyone in the group was smiling as they came out and absorbed the attention. Chants of “TCV” and “Vultures” were heard from my vantage point and that always gets the blood pumping at a show especially since you just knew that the band could hear this as well.
When the band kicked into it, I had to say that it was super impressive and of course super loud. So much so that I caught Jones checking his ears a couple of times very early in the set. He was standing quite close to Grohl’s drums and that boy can pound the skins so it must have been like being on a battlefield as cannon fire went off all around him. The band “works” in the manner that it was supposed to and it’s a very riff heavy groove kind of Hard Rock. One is bound to get that with Jones in the lineup and while a seriously capable drummer and singer, we find Grohl being mostly content pounding out some 4/4 time and singing the occasional backup. He does not sing lead at all in the band and leaves that to the former Kyuss/QoTSA Homme. Filling out the lineup for the live shows is another member of QoTSA and that is guitarist Alain Johannes and one might wonder if by having two of that bands roster that it would come off as a “part two” for Queens and I had to say that it does not. The material that they are playing might have a note or two in similarity but it is otherwise fresh and easy to enjoy as a new project. Since the band had only the one release this would be the core of the music tonight and the album would be played in full but its songs mixed around so people didn’t feel as though they were watching the album be performed live. That kind of thing works great when Rush or Dream Theatre do it, but there was a looser groove with these guys and I think swapping the order worked out the best.
Josh had the girls screaming for him, and I had to say that there were plenty of them in the venue tonight. The other thing I took notice of was how widely diverse the audience actually was as it spanned a number of generations and clearly found fans of each of the members original bands in place together for their new fun. JPJ was impressive and no one expected anything less of him, but I think he surprised the audience with just how many instruments he would put to use tonight. He played the bass, some mandolin, keyboards and this newfangled digital guitar as well. Amazing when it came down to it and I was glad to be in such a venue to see him do his thing as opposed to a mega-arena watching him on a television screen. To say that Jones is an amazing and versatile musician is limiting his description because he is very simply without peer in the Rock world. With Homme handling all of the singing Grohl would just do the backup melodies and I guess if we found him singing any lead this would make people think of Foo Fighters and that was not the reasoning behind this particular project. I liked Homme as a singer even though I can admit as to never really paying much attention to Queens Of The Stone Age or Kyuss but I had to say that he was so “relaxed” when he talked to the crowd that depending on your own view of the show you could take this as disinterest. Don’t get me wrong in this because I see a lot of bands where the lead singer is an animated person and seems to be ready to explode out of their shoes during their shows, and with Homme not being of this same type of person one could think he was bored with what he was doing even though this is not the case. For all I know he was doing this on purpose because how could one not be excited to have a lineup like this making music with him. His diehard fans didn’t seem to mind as anytime he spoke there was screaming like I have seldom heard before.
I’m still absorbing the album but felt that from it I had enjoyed both “Elephants” and “Bandoliers” the most and that it was safe to tell the world that the material does work out very well in the live sense. I was glad to see this because there’s too many times where a group sounds great on album but totally blows live. Closing up I had to say that this was a great show and one that brought a lot of interesting music to the table. Since all of its members are such luminaries in the music world one has to wonder how long this project might run or if it will be something that we hear from every few years. The album is a worthy piece of music to investigate and should you hear about a show that they are doing and can get a ticket then I recommend you give it a go to see what it is all about.
TCV Set List:
1. No One Love Me & Neither Do I
2. Dead End Friends
3. Scumbag Blues
5. Highway One
6. New Fang
9. Mind Eraser, No Chaser
11. Interlude With Ludes
12. Spinning In Daffodils
14. Warsaw or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up
Here’s a quick shot of the front entrance and marquee of The Roseland Ballroom. As you can see there is a throng of people going inside the place and this my dear readers was the scene that was brewing some forty five minutes after the doors had first opened. I’m sorry that I didn’t snap an image of the still extending around the corner line but oh well it was rather cold and I preferred to get inside as quick as possible.
Official Website: http://www.themcrookedvultures.com