Eagles of Death Metal – Leeds Beckett University, 31st October 2015
Jesse Hughes is nothing if not a contradiction. With his signature moustache, tight pants and slicked back hair, the Eagles of Death Metal frontman looks more redneck than rock star. A devout Christian and ordained as a minister in 2012 by the Universal Life Church World Headquarters, his faith would appear to be at strict odds with a dissolute lifestyle. And his staunch Republicanism does not necessarily make for an easy fit with self-confessed drug use and his face appearing as a woman’s nipple on the cover of his band’s latest album.
Yet even allowing for the incongruity of the name of the band – created back in 1998 by Hughes and best buddy Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures fame) as something of a prank – there is nothing ambiguous about the music that Eagles of Death Metal play. It is unadulterated, no-nonsense, no-frills rock’n’roll; a raw, primeval blast of shit-kickin’ sexual energy that is born of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Keith Richards.
Having played Download during the summer, the Eagles of Death Metal are now back in this country in support of their recently released fourth studio album, Zipper Down (other work commitments preclude Homme from making the trip). Leeds is the first night of the sold out tour and to mark the occasion – it is, after all, All Hallow’s Eve – the band come on stage to the sound of Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s ‘Monster Mash’. Each member suitably dressed for the occasion, Hughes soon discards his bright red cape and proving that on-the-road hedonism is far from dead promptly demolishes half a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey.
EoDM launch straight into ‘Bad Dream Mama’ (from the band’s 2004 debut long player Peace, Love, Death Metal) and for the next 100 minutes we are treated to a peerless demonstration of how best to be possessed by the spirit of rock’n’roll. Hughes is a brilliant showman; larger than life and with an acute sense of freedom and reckless abandon. At one point, he suggests burning the venue down, though quickly adds figuratively speaking. Hughes embodies the very essence of rock’n’roll. He leads his band from the front with long-term guitarist Dave Catching – described affectionately by Hughes as “disease-free and a Taurus” – first to follow suit as he peels off one blistering solo after another on his rock trademark Flying V.
On ‘Whorehoppin’ (Shit, Goddamn)’ – a song that whenever Hughes’ mother comes to one of EoDM’s gigs she leaves before they play it, further emphasising his conservative background – the set really takes off. ‘Cherry Cola’ remains one helluva dirty sleazeball of a tune and their reading of Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle’ is much more Reservoir Dogs than its softer early 70s original. And fresh from yesterday’s joint collaboration with Duran Duran on TFI Friday, comes another cover courtesy of ‘Save A Prayer’. Here one of Duran Duran’s era-defining hits is given an EoDM makeover and emerges on the other side as some good-time glam rock stomper.
By the time of the encores, the impact of Hughes’ earlier indulgence with the Jameson’s appears to be taking hold as he good-naturedly stumbles his way through a couple of ramshackle solo readings of first ‘English Girl’ and then ‘I Got A Feelin’ (Just Nineteen)’. The full band return for a magnificent, sprawling ‘Speaking In Tongues’ during which Hughes and Catching reveal their inner guitar heroes as they trade some classic blues rock licks off each other. The show ends at the very point where it had begun; one of pure, undiluted fun and sheer entertainment.
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