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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finished in America with mixed reviews, Them Crooked Vultures prep summer finale

Photo from Monday night's Them Crooked Vultures concert in Indianapolis courtesy of Pam Groves

For the band Them Crooked Vultures, this summer is going to be full of festivals.

The way the new band with John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme started playing out live last year was with a gig in Chicago and then some sporadic appearances throughout Europe. That's precisely the path the band is taking at the moment, having just visited Chicago a second time and now leaving North America for some time off. When they start up again, it will be June 3 is Vienna, Austria.

Since April, the band has played six dates in the United States and five in Canada. Toward the beginning of the tour, show reviews veered toward the highly positive. However, some unsympathetic writers took potshots at the group in recent days. Jones is almost universally accepted as infallible, but Homme evidently makes for a good punching bag.
  • In a preview of the band's stop in Chicago, Brent DiCrescenzo writes for the online Time Out Chicago that Homme is "the weak link here, ketchup on steak."
  • Indianapolis Star reporter David Lindquist writes that Homme had to struggle in concert to keep up with the "towering talents" of his bandmates yet was still unable to "offer something catchy with every tune" in terms of lyrics and melody.
Fan Jeremy Nettles, in a comment on the Lemon Squeezings page on Facebook, defends Homme's performance in Indianapolis. He writes:
"I was at the show, and I honestly thought Homme did a fantastic job all night. I've held similar things against him from his previous projects, and even video of TCV I'd seen before, but last night he was top notch."
DiCrescenzo said a lot more in piling on the insults in advance of the Chicago gig. He also rated Them Crooked Vultures' self-titled album as "underwhelming" and "middling." He says this accounts for the fact that tickets to the Aragon Ballroom show hadn't sold out.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum of reviewers is Greg Kot, writing for the Chicago Tribune's "Turn It Up" blog. Recall that Kot provided the first-ever professional review of Them Crooked Vultures when they played their debut concert, a post-Lollapalooza midnight show at the Metro in August 2009.

Well, he's still amazed by the band, writing in the initial hours immediately after the show that it was "a compressed, concentrated blast of hard-rock aggression from three masters of the genre." Says Kot, "Ears are still ringing." (Hell yeah, I can attest to that, having watched them from the front row of Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 club last October. My ears remained numb right on through Thanksgiving!)

Another repeat attendee at both Chicago shows was Led Zeppelin fan Wyatt, who provided his perspective to Lemon Squeezings by phone right after the August show. After Tuesday's show, he wrote using his BlackBerry, weighing in on the return of Them Crooked Vultures to the Windy City:
"Likely the longest show of the tour tonight. Absolutely epic 'Scumbag Blues' and 'Warsaw,' Dave went insane during 'Daffodils,' and Jonesy serenaded us with a delicately awesome keyboard solo. Josh mounted a stack of monitors for an 'Interlude with Ludes' from on high. Jones was in a playful mood all evening, dancing and also mimicking the exaggerated mannerisms of a concert pianist in his preparation for 'Caligulove.' A fun show."
His review, posted on the Led Zeppelin discussion group For Badgeholders Only, piggybacked off of two others seen there in recent days.
"I have to be honest, when I think about every TCV boot I have heard there is no doubt in my mind that last night was Jonesy's finest performance to date with this band. He was tearing it up throwing in 20 note bass runs then grinning at Josh as if to say, 'How's that'? He was digging the show and having a great time."
There are 11 remaining dates on the band's schedule, many of them festival appearances throughout Europe. After their last show, which is in Japan, is a temporary halt for Them Crooked Vultures.

That second album we've been hearing talked about even before the first one came out? No hurry on getting it done anytime soon, says Homme. In his interview for Jam! Showbiz published online May 7, he was asked if he is tired of questions about plans for a second Vultures album. His reply:
"Yeah, but partially it's of our own making. We mentioned the idea once in New Zealand and it just took off. And we do want to make another album. But it's important to not pressurize a situation like this. So we haven't spent any time trying to be Nostradamus about it. But we really want to. We know we're going to."
Grohl and Homme have work to do with their other bands, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, respectively. As for Jones, nothing has been stated publicly about his own plans. You can bet that Lemon Squeezings will be on the case!

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