Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
I dearly wanted to see this band. I am a huge fan of the album. It was my favorite from last year.
I almost missed out, as Tuesday night's show was their last US appearance. The band made mention of this, as their first gig was at Metro, here in Chicago, on the Sunday night that ended last year's Lollapalooza festival. They made a point to call Chicago their home town. It was a figurative statement, of course, but the sentiment was nice, and the crowd responded.
Blurry cell phone picture:
The opening act was Alberta Cross, and they had a nice, kinda Stones-y vibe. Interesting presence on stage, and some decent tunes. I may download the disk.
I got to the Aragon
Aside from some seriously jagbaggy kids in the crowd that apparently thought being a dick could get you up front (buddy, try pulling that at a Slayer show, which you seemed to think was the vibe, as Dr. Ezvian would say "you'll be dead!"), it was an amazing experience.
I've always felt Them Crooked Vultures had a explicit Cream-like vibe. Heavy, but rooted in groove and blues. Three guys who had notoriety from previous groups. Never moreso than on the track "Scumbag Blues," which, to me, sounds exactly like a modern Cream track. (Granted, Josh Homme is no Clapton.)
I made it to about 3 people back from the rail, directly in front of Homme and utility player Alain Johannes. I had a great view of both of them, and living legend John Paul Jones on the other side of the stage. I could see Dave Grohl behind the drums, but one of my gripes about the Aragon is that the stage is extremely high for as close as you can get to it. My view to the drums was not clear.
They began the show with "No One Loves Me, and Neither Do I," same as the CD. It's a great opening track, and establishes the Vultures sound pretty solidly. The first five numbers were a pretty powerful opening gate rush, "Gunman" (which is probably my favorite track from the CD), "Scumbag Blues," "Dead End Friends," and "Elephants." I was seriously beginning to wonder how they were going to maintain the drive opening that way.
It was a volley of powerful tracks, and with the limited material that is part and parcel of touring with only one album's worth of material, it crossed my mind that the uptempo, powerful numbers might run out before the energy did. It was a pretty silly fear, as even the most languid tracks, "Interlude with Ludes," for example, gained magnetic energy from the personalities on stage.
To whit; Josh Homme is one hell of a frontman. Loose, cool, a bit arrogant, and more than willing to push the envelope on looking little silly. For example the aforementioned "Interlude With Ludes," it's probably one of my least favorite albums tracks. However, it springs to a weird, sexual life when Homme is standing on top of the stacks grinding like a stripper as he sings. Not to mention watching John Paul Jones pull out the keytar for that number.
Yes, that's right, I saw a member of Led Zeppelin play a keytar.
It might have been my favorite number of the show.
I was also extremely excited to hear new music. Two new tracks, "Highway One" (Featuring Jones on a wicked-cool electric mandolin), and "You Can't Possibly Begin to Imagine" (Jones on electric violin), really made my night. Both were well within the Vultures sound, but also showed new directions. When you have a multi-instrumentalist like John Paul Jones, I say you use him, and those new tracks certainly did. Made me pine for a second album sooner, rather than later.
Although, it'd be nice to hear something about the new tracks, like a title, during the show. I had to look up the names on the internet when I got home. Next time, I guess.
The band is extremely tight, in general. Jones and Grohl were right in the pocket together, and clearly having a great time. Jones got extended bass jam time on "Gunman," and it was truly fantastic. He and Grohl were playing off each other, improvising, and still holding the song together. The fact that the crowd was really happy to be seeing a living legend like Jones play had to add too it, every bass lick during that jam got a huge scream.
Much wit and humor was in evidence for the entire show. Homme has many snappy lines, usually revolving on his current state of drunkenness. He was swigging from a vodka bottle the entire set. Real? Not? I didn't really care, it was part of the show, the way these three personalities (and Johannes, who got a nice guitar solo spot) merge together and play off each other. Homme as the hard-core bad-boy rocker, Grohl as the goofy, good-time guy, and Jones as the elder statesman, it was just nice to see a band that came from different places and put their strengths together to make an awesome sound. I certainly find it cooler than a band who seems to have chosen a "style" that they all stick to.
Oh, and Dave...Josh is right. The picture on this shirt;
Makes you look like a child molester.
No One Loves Me, and Neither Do I
Dead End Friends
Interlude With Ludes
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
You Can't Possibly Begin to Imagine
Spinning in Daffodils
Warsaw or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up