"It's a lot of new music," said Them Crooked Vultures frontman Josh Homme onstage at the Roseland Ballroom for the New York debut of his supergroup with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones last night. "It's not often you get to hear a bunch of music that you have no idea what's gonna happen."
Debuting in public seems like a coup in the age of instant leaks and message board spoilers. And Them Crooked Vultures got nothing short of a hero's welcome for a show where the only material anyone knew was from spotty camera phone YouTubes and exactly 137 seconds of studio music floating around. They packed the enormous Roseland on name alone with tickets that went for $54.50; they sold tons of merch without a single leaked song to their name; they had a father and son team already running around in matching Them Crooked Vultures T-shirts.
Clearly the cult of personality loomed the largest. Homme, the only guy in the band who hasn't had a record sell 10 million copies, did his best to humanize the event and defuse the tension with his dry banter. "This is Mr. Dave Grohl on drums," he said to a rush of applause before quipping, "Oh, they've heard of you." Homme seemed genuinely shocked after he got cheers for "Nobody Loves Me, and Neither Do I," adding, "You know this one?" His intimate attitude was perfect because the band was playing it close, too. These weren't rock demigods out to mesmerize a crowd with their oversized personalities and monolithic jams; these were a couple guys fresh from the practice space, still ironing out the kinks, still looking at each other while they play to figure out where they're going. When they busted into a new set list addition, the alt-metal neck-snapper "Reptiles," Jones had to face Grohl to keep its tricky scissor-kick rhythms from falling apart.
Otherwise they were tight as a button, if not a little indulgent. Six-minute space-blooz dirges still seem a little odd in the hand of lean popsters like Homme and Grohl, but consummate Zepper Jones felt right at home — and the crowd completely ate up all his art-rock affectations. He playing a completely ripping, honest-to-God bass solo in the middle of "Scumbag Blues," his fingers running up and down the neck like a caffeinated 17-year-old who just learned how to play "Good Times, Bad Times." At the end of the scuzzy, Kiss-like rager "Daffodils," he played a two-minute barroom piano solo by himself, and the crowd went nuts. For the demented lounge of "Interlude w/ Ludes" he brought a keytar out from the side of the stage, which was maybe the first time a keytar has gotten applause at Roseland in 20 years.
Maybe even a little hyper-aware of all the jamming, Homme cut the tension once again by the show's end. "You still love us now? Only four hours left."