One of the hottest bands in the world made their London debut last night as the openers for Arctic Monkeys at the Brixton Academy. Billed cryptically as “very special guests,” the secret was clearly out as a line wrapped around the block with fans eager to catch a set by new supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. At 7:50 GMT John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme casually assumed the stage as any opening band might, before rocking the theater with just under an hour of ear splitting, foot stomping, unadulterated rock.
Offering nothing more than a simple “hello” from frontman Homme, the band immediately launched into “Elephants,” beginning with a Led Zep-inspired bluesy guitar riff and thumping bassline before doubling to a speed that resembled Homme and Grohl’s respective outfits. The trio, who were joined by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Alain Johannes, then broke out “Dead End Friends” and the droning hard rock “Gunman” both of which call to mind QOTSA material but with the amps turned up to 11 and Dave Grohl beating the drums within an inch of their life.
Homme kept crowd interaction with the 5,000 lucky fans packed inside the quaint venue to a minimum — they were the support act after all — saving his voice for melodic vocals on tunes like “Mind Eraser (No Chaser).” Many of the Vulture’s tunes took a number of meandering turns as they progressed, shifting styles and time signatures. The fifth song, “Caligulove” was a throwback psychedelic number with John Paul Jones blaring Hammond organ sound from his keyboard.
The Vultures played with an deafening intensity that brought the Monkeys out to watch from a back corner of the stage. Their strongest tune was “Daffodils,” which features a driving riff that had a whiff of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” before Jones switched to the keys for a dreamy, classical, prog rock ending. The Vulture’s then moved on to the catchy, toe tapping “New Fang” which again showcased Homme’s vocals.
The one-hour set wrapped up with “Nobody Loves me, And Neither Do I,” another bluesy number featuring Jones on the 12-string slide guitar, followed by an untitled eight-minute sprawling epic. The closer featured multiple mood changes, wandering from jazzy slap bass interludes with swinging drums and lounge singer vocals to raucous hard rock sections. It was more of a novelty tune than a cohesive rock anthem but still a hell of a lot of fun.
“We had a lovely time, we hope you had the same,” Homme told the crowd as the band soaked up the rapturous applause before leaving the stage as casually as they had assumed it. It was an epic night in the rapidly unfolding history of perhaps the next great “supergroup,” a term that in this case may be justified.
Exactly where Them Crooked Vultures will land next is anyone’s guess although after appearances at three festivals in the Neatherlands and Belgium last week speculation is brewing about a possible slot at the Reading & Leeds festival. For now fans will have to keep up with the healthy rumor mill and hope they find themselves in the right place at the right time.
2. Dead End Friends
4. Mind Eraser (No Chaser)
7. New Fang
8. Nobody Loves Me, And neither Do I