In a recent interview Dave Grohl talked about what it's like playing drums behind Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones in their new band Them Crooked Vultures. He said "When I was 16, I gave myself my first tattoo of John Bonham's 3-circle Zeppelin logo. I tried to make it look pro but it looks like someone put cigarettes out on my arm! Playing with John Paul Jones is definitely a dream come true for me." That makes sense but then he said something that had me shaking my head "This is definitely the best band I've ever played in." These are bold words from a guy that's played in Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Nirvana. I figured he's probably just psyched to be living the dream.
Them Crooked Vultures also features 2 other QOTSA members: Josh Homme on vocals/lead guitar and Alain Johannes on guitar. The band walked out on stage to a deafening roar; and this from a crowd that doesn't know any of their songs by heart. They couldn't. Their only record released just a few days ago. So the applause is more about the concept of a band that, at least on paper, has got to be great. And then you combine this caliber of talent at a small theater. If you had told me 20 years ago that I'd be standing 20 feet away from John Paul Jones rocking out with a new hard rock band, I would've assumed you meant that I had died and gone to some rock-n-roll heaven. They launched into their first song and immediately several things are obvious. Dave Grohl's drumming is astonishing. With precision, ferocity and finesse, he is one of the best drummers in rock and watching him is to see a master at work. Josh Homme, the lesser known of the band, is more than worthy and is very up to the task of leading the way. And Jones, looking fit, healthy and nowhere near 63 years old, is clearly glad to not only be back on stage but back with a vengeance by providing the foundation for a great new band. There are times when a band is in a rocking groove, where things seemingly couldn't get any better but then they take it to a new level, either by a time change or just quickening the beat to a new intensity. Josh Homme, like a poker player with an obvious tell, sometimes signals this by looking back at Grohl and Jones, and lifts his leg up just a bit as if he's going to kick something. And he most certainly is about to kick something: your ass. They take it to a level that seemed impossible before, sending the crowd into a pogo-jumping, headbanging frenzy. Just when you think they're going to let up, a smile comes across Grohl's face, that famous infectious grin which signals to them that he wants to take it even further. He and Jones lock tight into a manic-metal groove that elevates the intensity to mind-blowing levels. And so it goes, they slay the entire crowd, all in the first song.
The wildest thing about seeing Jones in this band is that the Vultures are a more rocking band than Zeppelin.What? No, now simmer down people. Not a better band but a band with a harder edge and with a faster metal tempo. He has always been incredible but these guys are pushing him even further. Seeing this legend rock this hard with guys half his age, hell, at times taking them all to school was truly a marvel. But the best times were when Homme and Jones would stand right next to Grohl, the three of them looking at each other laughing, yelling, egging each other on. Jones laughing because he clearly enjoys rocking again with a band that's truly worthy of his talent. Homme and Grohl had a completely different smile. One that unmistakenly said "Oh my God we are in an awesome band with John Paul Jones!" The band absolutely killed the crowd for 75 minutes and though noone wants something so special to end, we couldn't have handled much more at that intensity. My friend Mark Pickett and I were literally speechless for several minutes afterwards. I finally managed to say "I can't believe it. They really are the best band Dave has ever been in." He replied "They're the best band anyone has ever been in." I laughed, knowing he was joking. Or at least I think he was.