Okay, so last time I mentioned the huge box-like theater that is The Coliseum at Caesar’s. Here is a photo, which shows it set up for normal shows. For Them Crooked Vultures, the chairs on the main floor were removed. But you get the idea. Despite its size and shape, the sound was surprisingly good. There were a couple of movie size screens on each side of the stage, which was a good thing for our vantage point as we were a little bit far away even though I brought binoculars. I think I get the binocular thing from my mom who one time brought binoculars to another super group, the Highwaymen
so she could see the guys in the band better. She was in the second row. She said later that Johnny Cash looked at her funny.
The opening band was Alberta Cross
, whose lead singer had a very unique voice that sounded just like Jeff Buckley
. They were okay, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder how a band like that gets to a place like this. Musically they were proficient, but upon first listen there wasn’t anything that grabbed me; all mid-tempo songs that I found boring. I’ve read other reviews of the band that say how good they are, so maybe I’m wrong. I will admit that I’m not always right on first impressions and sometimes things grow on you. In this case, I doubt I’ll give them the chance. Enough about them.
My wife was surprised at the age of the crowd. Lots of people in their 50’s and 60’s, in fact it didn’t look like there were even any people in their 20’s around us. Maybe they were down on the floor. I sagely looked at her and said, “Led Zeppelin
fans.” Half-way through the show, a couple of them left. I’m guessing either they didn’t realize how loud concerts are now or else they were expecting some Zeppelin songs. I should note the brilliance of Dave Grohl in forming a band with inter-generational appeal by having John Paul Jones in it. Was that the only reason for having him in the band? Obviously not. They wanted the best bassist in the world and the best bassist in the world thought it would be fun. Lucky them. But I think it’s just another example of how Dave Grohl “accidentally” falls into stuff that seems to work out really, really well for him in the end. Did I ever mention that I hate Dave Grohl? I think I might have.
Then the lights dim. All of a sudden there is my arch-nemesis walking on stage like he just walked into his own living room and noticed a bunch of people there to see him. The crowd erupted and he waved his drum sticks with a big wide grin. The rest of the band followed amidst more cheers. Once settled in, they just started playing. I’ll now go through what they played song by song and my thoughts (if any) regarding them. Since I understand about 25% of the lyrics on the album and don’t really know most of the song titles, my notes are kind of funny. I had to go to my iPod to figure out actual song titles for a few of them.
They started with album opener No One Loves Me and Neither Do I
. I love that song title. Even so, my notes say “First Song” since I just knew it was the first song on the album. I had to admit it was a thrill to see Dave drumming in a band again. I realized I had never seen him as the drummer in a band live as I had decided lamely not to see Nirvana when they played Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo back in the day. It’s pretty cool to watch Dave smash the drums on my computer screen, but when his thundering drums are filling a stadium you’re in it’s like he’s hitting you
. They then broke into the neo-disco…Gunman
: One of my favorite songs on the album. What a groove.Scumbag Blues
: The Cream sound-a-like. John Paul Jones was awesome on bass as they did an extended jam session in the middle of the song. After this song was over, singer and guitarist Josh Homme joked, “Let’s get this over with here. Here we go…This song’s called Fresh Pots
.” Dave laughed and they started into…Dead End FriendsElephants
: I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a band as tight as this. There are a lot of tempo changes and time-signature changes in these songs and they were just spot on. The level of musicianship of these guys, including side-guitarist Alan Johansen is really incredible.
: in which JPJ played what looked like an oversized mandolin. He started the song and played this really awesome, fast bass line by strumming. The song built up around that and with kind of a weird, atmospheric vibe. After that, Dave did a sweet drum transition into…New Fang
: one of the album singles.
Then the band took a break while Alan Johansen played a quirky guitar solo. Bandoliers
- I labeled this one “ Verse: I was too late… Chorus: Prepare to gain…” I don’t know if those are the right lyrics or not.
I was surprised that they played Interlude With Ludes
(I labeled “Interlude Song” – pretty close!) as it’s a pretty trippy, kind of throw away song on the album, that I usually skip to be honest. But what was kind of fun was that between songs many times they would just start playing something and go off on it for a short while. After Ludes Dave and JPJ laid down this swingy jazz rhythm and then Josh Homme started doing a spoken word thing on top that he was obviously making up because it wasn’t that good. But it was funny and you could tell the band was having fun together. Mind Eraser No ChaserCaligulove
- What was interesting about this song was that John Paul Jones put down his bass and sat behind the keyboard to play his organ part. This wasn’t the first time he switched instruments or even the first time he played keys. But what was interesting was that during the verses he just sat there playing nothing and just bopping along to the music. For a really…long….time. There’s the mark of a good musician right there, I thought. He knows when to play and when NOT to play. He doesn’t have to be playing all the time. What a concept. The other thing I thought was that you didn’t really miss the bass. The sound was full with just the guitars and drums. Good sound man?
Then they went into what I thought was just another interlude, jam session thing with Josh Homme playing a bluesy riff on guitar. But it wasn’t. John Paul Jones pulled out a violin and started playing that. Then Alan J. came in with the slide guitar, really sparse at first. JPJ moved to the organ at which point Josh, Alan and Dave started singing, each one coming in and building on the other before Dave came in with tribal pounding. It built and it was cool. Spinning In Daffodils
: This song I labeled “dum dum diddle diddle.” Josh comments
: At this point he said something like, “It’s my birthday in 20 minutes. I’ll be seven years old. This next song is about where lizards live.” My wife turned to me and said, “Nothing he just said made any sense!” It was true. It was 10:35pm. So I tried to decipher: He was confused on the time. It had been days since he’d been in a timezone where that would have been close to right (either that or you’d have to be in the middle of the Atlantic). The seven years old comment I believe was a joke, and the next song was…Reptiles
They finished up the show with Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up
. I labeled it, “Can’t afford to lose my love…” Actual lyric – “Can’t afford to lose my head.” Again, close.
There was no encore. They had played every song on the album plus two new ones. They had extended the songs with jams in their middles. In my last post I said there were things I thought they could do better so here it goes. Let me start by saying that Them Crooked Vultures do not write sing along songs. Like I said earlier, I only understand about a quarter of their lyrics anyway. So it was not that type of concert experience. You were there to rock out to the music, which is groovy, hard, fast and good. That being said, I kind of felt like the band was there enjoying themselves, but I didn’t feel like the audience was real involved. They were just there to witness the band’s greatness. It was a little self-indulgent on the part of the band. I was tired after about an hour and the show lasted an hour and a half. Heck, just watching Dave Grohl pound the drums tired me out. How does he do that night after night? Josh Homme as a front man is a cool dude, bordering on arrogant, but there’s not a lot of crowd interaction there. Great band? Yes. Great concert? Mostly. Great audience experience? Not really. I hate Dave Grohl.