Thursday, October 15, 2009

No shortage of original riffs at Them Crooked Vultures show; John Paul Jones puts on display with array of instruments

The all-too-brief North American tour by Them Crooked Vultures comes to a close tonight with a performance at New York's Roseland Ballroom. If it goes anything like last night's concert at the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C., the Big Apple is in for an ear-splitting treat consisting of well over an hour of riffs.

Dave Grohl's career since Nirvana may have flourished the most with him singing for the Foo Fighters, but make no mistake: He belongs pounding on the drums, where his power is rivaled by his imaginative drum beats and long (trance-inspired?) fills.

Throughout the show, Grohl watched carefully as his bandmates out front unleashed each riff. Beneath a mop of hair that has been soaking since the first song, Grohl's face displayed a sly look as he eyed the man to his right, who heretofore was most famous in the band that placed him with John Bonham. A spontaneous and stilted "Moby Dick" reference between songs last night brought to mind the drummer who has been missed since 1980. For John Paul Jones, all bets are that this lineup is his favorite since those days of expanding upon Willie Dixon-derived tunes.

No Willie Dixon royalties were earned or withheld last night. The band bashes through only completely original riffs in its uncompromising set that's devoid of cover songs. The creative forces that wrote these songs in a short time this year execute them flawlessly in their live setting. The complicated rhythmic changes are memorized and performed without even the slightest exchange of a visual cue. It's all done with ears, not mirrors.

Jones inadvertently steals the show with his mastery of an array of different instruments. As each new one is strapped around his neck and displayed on the stage, the audience responds with an approval. But it's surprising to see Jones confined to a four-string bass when he's just tinkered with the freedom 10 or 12 strings a song or two earlier. He makes your average professional bass player look like an amateur.

A title and release date for the band's album have not been officially announced, although one online U.K. retailer shows Nov. 23 as the date in question. Singer and guitarist Josh Homme said their disc would be self-titled, but that could change if a new catchphrase in line with the past "Follow What's Heard" and "Deserve the Future" is favored.

In the meantime, NPR says it hopes to air, given the band's permission, a multi-track recording made at last night's show. It appeared to be an error-free show that was captured on tape, with the third public performance of the recent composition "Highway One," so it would make sense to offer the show up to the airwaves.

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