Show Review: I hated arena rock until Joshua Homme proved me wrong

Them Crooked Vultures Live In Hamilton Them Crooked Vultures, Arkells & Alberta Cross @ Air Canada Center, May 15
By: Shane Saunderson
Photos: Allison Dunnings
May 17, 2010

You don’t know me, so I feel that it’s only fair we chat a bit before this goes too far.  I’m a farm boy from the middle of nowhere in Manitoba.  My first memorable concert was seeing Moist touring on Silver back in ’94 in a hockey rink in Brandon, MB.  This was also the first time I got drunk.  Over the years, I’ve seen more live shows than your average roadie and like many addicted to the stage, I’ve grown to hate stadium gigs.

Live music is about emotion, engagement and connection between the artist and the audience.  There’s something about a room big enough to house an airplane and a sea of people large enough to create and orgy that would make Caligula blush, which destroys any potential connection that the music could make.  Joshua Homme, front man for Them Crooked Vultures, was out to prove me wrong.
…But we’ll get to that.
Since this was my first review for and I wanted to show that I am a constant professional, I missed openers Alberta Cross due to an argument between myself and a case of beer.  However, David from Hamilton, who was sitting directly in front of me, informed me that the band was very ‘missable.’  My review of David is that he was a rather tall, broad-shouldered man in his late 20s who had a genuine look to him, so I feel as though we can trust his judgment.  (Editor’s note: Sorry David from Hamilton, TMS has been receiving feedback that you were very much wrong.)
Arkells Live In Hamilton I stumbled through the gates of the ACC as Hamilton’s Arkells were getting their set going.  The Arkells are a fantastic group who I have seen numerous times, mostly at the ‘shoe.  I first saw them at CMW ’08, and since that time, they have obviously been doing alright for themselves.  In front of thousands, the boys did everything right: they put on a high energy, entertaining, tight set featuring all their well-known hits.  However, try as they might, the Arkells were unable to overcome the painfully large gap between the stage and myself.  I have loved this band live in the past, yet for my money, I could have been watching a Youtube video of the set.  I really think that certain bands just don’t have the sound to pull off a venue that big.
Other bands were born to captivate thousands.  Them Crooked Vultures don’t just fall into that category, they define it.  One could argue that given TCV’s resume, it’s almost as though they’re cheating, but no one ever read me the rules of rock’n’roll.  For all my love of the Foo Fighters, I’ll be the first to admit that Dave Grohl is in his true element behind a drum kit.  The man was born to hit things, and to hit them exceptionally, ear-shatteringly hard.  Multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones was precisely what I expected.  Considering that the man basically defined modern rock, no one should be surprised that he continues to innovate and blow minds with every gig.  The only thing that surprised me about JPJ is that he still rocks harder than 99% of the music community, even at the age of 66.  There is a reason why this man is revered as a god.
However, though he may be the least experienced of the three (which is like saying he’s the poorest millionaire), singer/guitarist Joshua Homme is what really holds this force of a band together.  At times, mistaking himself for a lounge crooner, Homme’s sexy, cool demeanor brings one of the greatest super groups ever created down to earth and makes the audience feel like they could be listening to the Vultures jam in a tiny dive bar.
Opening with the epic “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I,” the Vultures only slowed down to remind us that in addition to being one of the heaviest rock bands on the planet, they are also some of the most talented musicians.  Jones held the entire arena in a drug-like haze with a bluesy piano solo.  Homme’s guitar solos ripped through the air like he was making sweet love up and down his frets.  Even touring guitarist Alain Johannes had an instrumental aside, which I think was worth the price of admission.  At the end of the day, Grohl was always there to bring the crowd to their feet, or when he felt like it, their knees.
Them Crooked Vultures Live Mixing in a few teasers of new material alongside now famous songs, my only complaint about their set was that I could have listened to this band play for another hour or six.  If I had things my way, the only thing I would ever see in the ACC again is the Leafs getting their asses handed to them.  However if Them Crooked Vultures are back in town, count me in, regardless of what stage they choose to annihilate.
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