Waiting in the streets of Seattle, the cold falling from the sky, the eager stood. Conversations of passed music memories dotted the air. The marquee carried the name of Them Crooked Vultures in big red two foot tall letters. Finally the gates were opened and the people inched out of the rain. The night had promise of being incredible, but no one really new what to expect. Would they pull it off, or would they just be another over hyped super group. The next few hours would bring us the answer.
Opening the night was Mini Mansions, new project of Michael Shuman from Queens of the Stone Ages. They are a three piece ensemble out of Los Angeles, consisting of a keyboard player, a bass player and a drummer. The style of the band is quite strange and foreshadowed the main acts sound perfectly. With an almost Halloween style sound to some songs, they too were of the land of darkness. The overall vocal effect was almost a duet of sorts, bordering on Beatlesesque origination. Shuman used some feedback techniques to add some personal touches to the set. Especially during their cover of Heart of Glass by Blondie. The sound quality of the Paramount is amazing, but the speaker setup was a little poor. Being dead center on the floor, it was near impossible to clearly hear the lyrics. As they were spat out of the side speakers. This would change for the main act, but stole a lot of the performance from the openers. Mini Mansions are subtly beautiful, and I suggest delving into their work immediately.
As the anticipation grew for Them Crooked Vultures, the floor swelled with more music fanatics. The crushing force on the front of the stage was intense. Never before have I been squeezed as tightly to the front fence as at this show. When the lights went down, I was literally winded by the eager fans behind me. The newly formed super group took to the stage and an eruptive roar spat forth from the crowd. Dave Grohl took his place behind the drums, where he had once originated his career. Sporting a sleeveless shirt, his arms looked massive. No longer slender and frail as he had been while fronting his past project. He now had the arms of a drummer. Josh Hommes took to the mic, where he has made his career. Looking no different then in any past group; he was calm, cool and collected. Then enter John Paul Jones, and the shouting mass of the venue bubbled once more. His grin was ear to ear and he looked like a corba ready to strike. Rounding out the four piece L.A. band is Alain Johannes Moschulski a rhythm guitarist, well known in the concert community. His past work includes stuff with Queens of the Stone Age and Eleven.
The band was ready to go, and the venue lit up with excitement. From the moment of departure, the musical ride they explored was deep. Josh had a vocally immaculate night. An outstanding job on his part, with emotion and raw enthusiasm towards every song. Dave destroyed his part with an animalistic attack of his drum kit. Beating the rhythm into the crowd with an unbridled fury, from the depth. John worked his way around various instruments; the keyboards, the bass, and even a mandolin. Pouring years of experience behind every strum and note selection. Alain, did not fade into the background, but help his own on stage. His pure talent seeping from his veins on stage.
The setlist was a compilation of the recently released self titled album. No covers, no works-in-progress, just an introduction into what they have cataloged. The only real change from the known songs were the extended jams added through out the night. A hint of Zeppelin derived licks were randomly inserted, to be found like little Easter eggs during the set. A little Immigrants Song here, some Stairway there. Hommes and Grohl were giddy on stage, constantly looking to John in awe. During a keyboard solo by Jones, the other three looked on and were almost as lost as the crowd, in the inspirational moment.
Reflecting on the music of this night, I will look at this as a shining moment in my concert attending career. Its rare that three super powers of rock, can come together and collaborate so well. Let alone create some interesting and different from the current main stream alt rock scene. The darkness shadowed over their style is beautiful. On stage they work in perfect harmony. Back and forth they feed from one another, and this only fuels the onlookers acceptance of them.
Overall the show was dramatic, poetic and pleased the ears of everyone in house. In a year that has seen the release of other similar super groups, such as Chickenfoot, this group is the real deal. If they can stick it out for a few more albums I can see some really amazing groundwork being laid here. They are setting the bar really high for future compilations among musics elite. Those who were at the Paramount last night witnessed something spectacular. It wasn’t the birth of a star or the rise of a new flame, it was the creation of something new. It was born out of love for music and not out of the need to pay some bills. Them Crooked Vultures are the beautiful darkness that rock has been missing for some time. A perfect meld of musical integrity with the touch of something a little evil. They are the new hope.
Photographs by Jamie Taylor