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Hammersmith Apollo, London 17 December 2009

Them Crooked Vultures

So, what do you get when you cross a Foo, a Zep and Stone Age Queen ? A beautiful noise that's for sure; and one that doesn't simply pick at the carcass of their former bands.

Ever since I heard about the unholy alliance between messieurs Grohl, Homme and Jones earlier last year, I was looking forward to the catching some Crooked action and riding the Queen's Stairway to Foovana.

It's true that their debut CD is at times a challenging listen, with psycho-dramatic blues style winning out over song substance and hooky bits. Expectations had certainly been set sky-high, when this decidedly unholy alliance was first announced.

Somehow, many seemed to be expecting an amalgam of 40% Foo; 35% Zep and 25% QOTSA and were disappointed at the absence of Grohl stadium choruses or Zeppelin whimsical mysticism.

Quite how and why baffles me, the tall ginger one was always going to constitute up to 50% of the equation, given that he both sings and plays guitar in what is essentially a power trio.

For me, it's the best thing that Josh Homme has put his name to for a long-time. And how about that rhythm section ? With both nights at Hammersmith completely sold-out, I was just happy to have secured the right of admission, even if our seats were probably closer to Shepherds Bush.

Thankfully, the sound and vision upstairs is generally better than most of the larger venues. What I wasn't prepared for was the volume and clarity from our vantage point; I guess it must've been pretty brutal down at floor-level.

As expected, with only a debut album under their wings and a determination not to revisit the past, it was less a case of what would they play, and more what in what order?

With a beady eye already looking towards that 'difficult' second album, a solitary 'new' song 'Highway One' was also aired, proving that there's life in this old bird, still. For those listening with open ears, yes there were nods to the collective musical legacy of the band; the insistent Zeppish rhythm of 'Elephant', the Creamy psyche of 'Scumbag Blues', the Stone Age angst of 'Dead-end Friends' and heavy Foo hooks of 'Mind Eraser'.

Better still, during the final third, things got lithe and loose with JPJ driving the jackhammer that is 'Caligulove' playing double-duty heavy-duty bass pedals and organ; Dave doing his best Animal impression on 'Daffodils' and Josh slipping in some slide on the sublime 'Reptiles'.  The sound was immaculate, the vibe immense and the Jones-Grohl bottom-end mightily bootylicious.

If Homme provides the face and Jones the heart, for me it's Grohl that proved that he is real soul of the band - based on his brilliantly powerful and percussive performance. Nice BVs too.

The band may be crooked by name and avian by nature, but there was nothing flighty about this gig. With a second album almost a certainty, it's clear that this is a labour of love and not dictated by commercial concerns. It'll be ready, when it's ready. I, for one, will wait patiently until it is.

So, get onboard and enjoy the flight of the Vultures; that is until they remember that they have day-jobs and you'll be kicking yourself that you missed 'em.

SET-LIST No One Loves Me & Neither Do I Dead End Friends Scumbag Blues Elephants Highway One New Fang Gunman Bandoliers Mind Eraser, No Chaser Caligulove Interlude with Ludes Spinning in Daffodils Reptiles Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up

Review and photo by Andy Rawll

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