Live Reviews

Them Crooked Vultures – Live

Brixton Academy
August 26th 2009

You’ve probably heard the rumblings and rumors running riot this week as what is possibly the greatest rock ‘super-group’ of all time plots it’s time to strike in the UK.

The Vultures have already been circling across Europe and America, swooping down to play random festival and club gigs, feeding small snippets of music out online, building the excitement – leaving everyone waiting and wondering just how hard a band comprising of members of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Queens Of The Stoneage will rock. The obvious answer is, fucking hard.

Initial rumors suggested the band would play at Islington Academy on Monday night this week and the web exploded with excitement and claims that the gig had already sold out, before it was even booked. When the gig didn’t happen all fingers pointed towards the Arctic Monkeys fan club Brixton show happening the same week. Josh Homme having just produced the Monkeys new album, it seemed like a likely option. And although the Vultures appearance was confirmed online later in the afternoon, when Dave Grohl (drums), John Paul Jones (bass/keyboards), Josh Homme (guitar/vocals) and Alain Johannes (guitar) walked out onstage in front of a largely unsuspecting Monkeys crowd, an enormous roar erupted from the crowd as the venue was filled with the clunking sound of jaws hitting floor.

With a brief wave to the crowd, these Vultures don’t fuck around and kick straight into ‘Elephant‘ (because it’s as heavy as a) and it literally detonates into life as Grohl propels the band into a high-speed thrash out, his hair and arms flaying behind the kit like it’s 1992, before the band settle into one of those strutting Josh Homme riffs that is pure and prime Queens Of The Stoneage at it’s finest. Your first instant thoughts are (one) it’s so good to see Dave Grohl back behind the drumkit where he belongs (two) John Paul Jones is a lucky bastard to not only have played with John Bonham, the greatest rock drummer ever, he now gets to play with the second greatest rock drummer ever and (three) they sound like an anvil being dropped on your head.

Surprisingly, however, as the set progresses, it’s interesting how song-based much of the material is. You would expect musicians of this sheer weight and caliber to have delivered something a little more muso, replying on long drawn out instrumentation or a series of monolithic stoner riffs but songs like ‘New Fang‘ and ‘Scumbag Blues‘ have a pure psychedelic pop sensibility shimmering under the sheer heaviness and it’s as much of a joy to hear as it is to watch. The grooves that Grohl and Jones lock into are phenomenal and you can see the joy in Grohl’s face as he gets to play with his bass playing idol. Grohl is an enormous Led Zeppelin fan. It can’t get better then this for him.

It’s interesting watching the audience’s reaction throughout. It’s obviously the Arctic Monkeys audience and they look more like the crowd from your local pub than rock fans (as is the way when a band hits mainstream) so there are some non-plussed faces in the crowd as they are battered by this alien rock form. Take this as a lesson to rock oh Monkeys fans, because you won’t get any better teachers or schooling than this. The ultimate rock band, through and through. The album is going to be incredible. The Vultures are circling….

James Sherry