Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures, Royal Albert Hall, London, 22-03-10

Can you think of a supergroup worth listening to? The word itself is hideous, that’s not a good start. I don’t think Cream qualifies as one, perhaps CSNY do, A Perfect Circle are pretty good, but Velvet Revolver are not. What’s the point of it? You’re on a hiding to nothing, you’re never going to outdo your ‘real’ music and you automatically earn rolled eyes from the press and most fans. It gets overanalysed, even if you’re just doing it for a laugh. Them Crooked Vultures might well turn out to be the best of a bad bunch, such was the fast, furious and powerful night they subjected us to - in the best way - at the Royal Albert Hall.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity set up by Roger Daltrey, who introduced the band with his customary East End swagger. Having block booked this very week a decade ago, to ensure an uninterrupted series of gigs at the venue, the Hall shuddered, bounced and blasted my ears to shreds. It must have been the loudest show since Led Zeppelin played there in 1970. After about 45 minutes I thought the sound lost something, either the band lost a little energy, which wouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of considering the pace they started at, but then I realised it was just the ringing in my ears.

With one hour-long album out, it took some magic and a couple of new tunes to make a great 90 minute show - but that’s what it was. It was completely without pretension, guile, artifice and calculation. They just enjoy it, there’s no more to it than that. As you might imagine, with a combined age of 135 for the three core members (Mere babies compared to The Stranglers, then - Ed.) and decades of playing to their names, they were tighter than most bands I’ve seen.

It was hard to take your eyes off Dave Grohl. Not just because it’s a pleasure to see him behind the kit again but because he’s a compelling figure, a talisman now as close to Bonham as anyone will ever get. Josh Homme’s voice and playing are perfect, his persona the epitome of tough West Coast cool. He even did a little shuffle dance during Interludes With Ludes, an almost swing track from the album and the only guitar-free song on offer. Grohl and Homme are doing this really to fulfil a childhood dream; that much is obvious. They don’t want to let John Paul Jones, always classy and still lightning quick at 64, down and they’ve made a record together that stands beside the best of Plant’s solo output. Sure, there’s a bit of filler on it. But when they get it right – New Fang, Spinning in Daffodils, Caligulove, Gunman, Mind Eraser No Chaser – those riffs are big enough to stand up to anything they’ve made before.