Gig/Concert: Them Crooked Vultures with the Novocaines
Venue: Challenge Stadium, Perth, Western Australia
Date: 19 January 2010
Headliners: Them Crooked Vultures
In one word: Jaw-dropping
Opening the night were Northam’s own The Novocaines, in the latest of a series of high-profile supports for the garage rockers [last seen on Music Vice here when they supported Kram]. Opening strong with their most well known track, “Lately”, the young quartet stormed through an energetic set which managed to keep the attention of most in attendance. Support acts at shows as big as this usually have a tough time winning over impatient crowds, but the Novocaines fared better than most with their Hives-meets-Rolling Stones vibe, and can be caught playing the Essentials Stage at Perth’s upcoming Big Day Out next weekend for those who arrived late.
A sudden dimming of the house lights followed by a deafening roar signaled the arrival of Them Crooked Vultures, who made their way onstage in an unexpectedly unassuming manner, allowing little fanfare before launching straight into “No One Loves Me (and Neither Do I)” highlighting John Paul Jones’ slide guitar skills, followed immediately by “Gunman” with its amazing riffs and tempo changes showing just how amazing Dave Grohl is back behind the kit. Not missing a beat all night, this was truly the highlight for those who never had the chance to see him play with Nirvana. “Scumbag Blues” and its funk-bass solo turned the spotlight back on Jones, though the sparing employment of the double-kick bass drum kept the crowd from forgetting who was sitting at the back of the stage.
It is worth mentioning at this point that as talented as he is, it was clear from the outset that vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme was going to be overshadowed by his bandmates for the night’s set, partly because Them Crooked Vultures is less of a departure from his signature style, but mainly due to his good tastes in rhythm sections. This was again evident in “Elephants” where Grohl’s drumming stole the show completely.
Homme did get his time to shine shortly thereafter though, with current single “New Fang” showing his vocal range and ear for melody (which sadly, for much of the night’s set was absent, with Homme preferring to lend his moaning, humming, fuzzed out side to most songs). His guitar chops were soon brought to the fore with the effects-laden “Gunman” leading to back’n’forth solos between Homme and touring guitarist Alain Johannes. The chemistry between these two was obvious, given their history of playing together in Queens of the Stone Age, and Johannes was a perfect addition to round out the band’s sound in a live setting.
After staying in the pocket for most of the night, Johannes was given the spotlight for an extended blues guitar solo while Homme and Jones departed the stage for a brief reprieve (Homme choosing to spend this time smoking a cigarette atop the barricade, encouraging the crowd with every gesture). This was a perfect way to give Johannes some credit without detracting from the big names with whom he was playing, and it almost makes one regret this band’s “super group” billing, as in reality they were as solid a four-piece as any other, and Johannes was key to their thick, unforgiving sound.
Given the band’s relative lack of material, it was surprising how many of their album tracks felt like hits, and the one-two punch of “Bandoliers” and “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” picked the energy of the show right back up (though again, the former suffered from a touch of Homme’s under-enthusiastic vocals). From here though, the show was all about the living legend that is John Paul Jones.
Moving from bass to piano for “Caligulove”, the show seemed to transform into more of a battle of wits between him and Grohl, each attempting to out-do the other within the confines of the song and with everyone else benefitting from this breathtaking feat of one-upmanship.
“Hey everyone, our drummer is Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl’s our fucking drummer!” were the excited words of Homme before dedicating the next song, “Interlude With Ludes” to their hirsute skinsman. With that, Homme proceeded to set down his guitar to allow for some ‘sexy’ dancing, and was accompanied by Jones on key-tar for this psychedelic ballad.
“Spinning in Daffodils” followed. Switching back to bass, then moving to the keys mid-song, this was another Jones-centric track, which ended with an extended piano solo that nearly brought tears to the eyes of Homme and Grohl, let alone the punters. Words just cannot describe the talent that is contained within that aged, road-worn demigod.
“Reptiles” followed, and sadly seemed a little lacking, with everyone still struggling to lift their jaws from the floor after what they’d just witnessed. “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up”, with its cheeky intro, signalled the night’s final song. This time showing off his skills as a vocalist, JPJ again attempted to steal the show, but the gradual tempo change to double time by Grohl and Homme and Johannes’ ever-building guitar solos ensured an equal distribution of awe and amazement. As all good stadium performances should, the song swelled to crescendo with an amazing light show (including LED fret markings on Jones’ six-string bass) and concluded with a superbly powerful double stop finish. Bang bang, that’s it. Bow. Exit stage right.
© Steve Pass
Photos – Them Crooked Vultures at Challenge Stadium