Josh Homme. Dave Grohl. John Paul Jones. Those three names alone were enough to fill New York’s Roseland Ballroom on a rainy Thursday night. With the exception of several clips of the band playing in the studio and some amateur YouTube footage, nobody had heard a note of music. But those three names, spanning several generations of rock icons, were promise of a memorable evening. The band delivered on that promise.
Playing for about 80 minutes, the band played all-new original music. Even the band’s labels (Interscope in America, RCA everywhere else) were hearing the music for the first time. Musically, the band had a lot in common with Queens of the Stone Age, not surprising condsidering that Homme was the only lead vocalist and Grohl played drums on their breakthrough album, Songs for the Deaf. For anyone unfamiliar with seeing the Foo Fighters frontman behind a kit, it was a pure joy to watch his unrestrained enthusiasm. That enthusiasm was also apparent in John Paul Jones, who was playing bass in Led Zeppelin since well before the rest of the band (which also included Eleven/QOTSA member Alain Johannes) had ever picked up an instrument.
It’s hard to go into detail about the songs. Most were muscular riffs, held down admirably by their all-star rhythm section and Homme’s melodies. Songs like “Reptile,” “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I,” and “Daffodils” could best be described as stoner rock with a touch of psychedelia. Some of the older attendees that likely caught JPJ onstage with Zeppelin were no doubt reminded of Cream, due to Homme’s falsetto. Jones also played some piano, and in one of the more unlikely events of the evening, even rocked a keytar! While it might have been nice to see Grohl take the mic for a song or two, or have the band play a song the crowd recognized, even if it wasn’t by any of their “other” bands, that was beside the point, and not necessary at all.
In this day and age of instant gratification and bit-torrents of albums being leaked before they’re even finished, the Them Crooked Vultures show stood out. It was refreshing to see an audience put their trust in a band who they’d barely heard a note of. It was a leap of faith for a band to road-test unheard music on an audience without throwing in a familiar song or two. And as the capacity crowd spilled out onto 52nd street satiated from the 80 minutes of music they heard, it was apparent that leap of faith worked.