Kyuss was a stoner-metal sludge band that made four albums between 1991 and 1995. The band is known as the first musical collaboration between guitarist Josh Homme and bassist Nick Oliveri, who would later found Queens of the Stone Age. Though Kyuss’ music went largely unnoticed as it was released, interest in the band picked up as QOTSA and Homme became immensely popular in the aughts.
The band recently reunited under the moniker Kyuss Lives! and began touring. Singer John Garcia, drummer Brant Bjork, and Oliveri signed up, leaving a Homme-sized hole the trio filled with hired gun Bruno Fevery. The band played the Summit Music Hall in Denver on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Before we get to the music, let me ask this: How does one justify moshing at a Kyuss Lives! show? The music was heavy, but more than anything, Kyuss Lives! is a band that warrants dancing and head-banging, not moshing. At times it seemed like Garcia was going to say something about a bunch of dudes fighting for such tiny spaces, but hey, what can you do if it is more about real estate than listening to the music?
Opening was Austin doom-metal group The Sword. The Sword delivered cuts like “Freya” and “Arrows in the Dark” completely on the mark. Most impressive was the chemistry between the guitarists J.D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt, who delivered a good mix of fist-pumping Sabbathian riffs, mid-tempo bruisers, and twin Thin Lizzy-esque dual guitar leads. Without original drummer Trevett Wingo, the band sounded tight and completely in step with new drummer Santiago "Jimmy" Vela. The Sword was a good opener for Kyuss Lives! and seemed to have a strong following out here in Denver.
Opening with epic “Spaceship Landing,” Kyuss Lives! took to the stage with the aroma of local dispensaries in the air. Doobies aside, Kyuss Lives! is a band as much felt as heard. Infectious bass grooves are poured onto thick Bonham-esque drum beats. The Summit Music Hall has one the loudest sound systems in Denver, and Kyuss Lives! surely tested the boundaries of its power. Bjork’s drums were huge if not cavernous, as each bass drum hit rattled the bones of anyone within 100 feet of the P.A.
The only problem was that, at times, the band sounded a bit like a cover band of its own material. This could be in part due to the lack of Homme in the line-up. With hired gun Fevery filling Homme’s big, empty shoes, Kyuss Lives! plodded their way through heavy hitters like “Gardenia,” “Thumb,” “Freedom Run,” “Supa Scoop and the mighty Scoop” and “Conan Troutman.” The band was pretty tight, and adhered for the most part to the album versions of these songs. At times John Garcia would jam on the vocals, and few guitar parts were adlibbed on “Gardenia.”
The real problem wasn’t that Bruno wasn’t good enough. He did a good enough job playing the Kyuss guitar riffs, and it wasn’t like he was playing the parts incorrectly. It’s just that he lacked the stylist quirks of the mutated desert blues music that Josh Homme worked so hard to create. After all, Homme is a pretty damn tough act to follow. Homme’s vibrato (the sound of one’s fingers) and fluid bends are not things one can easily replicate, and he played a giant role in designing the bass-heavy guitar sound Kyuss is famous for. Homme was notorious for playing guitars through bass amplifiers and crafted a singular down-tuned guitar tone that is impossible to ape. Bruno was loud enough and played the parts right, but something was missing in terms of feel. Kyuss guitar solos, which were often jams on one- or two-chord riffs, were altered to suit Bruno’s style of guitar playing, but in terms of the type of mind-expanding guitar lines Homme is capable of throwing down, Bruno’s improvised parts came up a little bit short.
Kyuss Lives! was given Josh Homme’s blessing, and in interviews John Garcia has stated that there is no bad blood between the current members of Kyuss Lives! and Homme. When it was all said and done one could not help but wonder what Kyuss Lives! would have sounded like with their original guitarist helming such heavy riffs.
Correction: A previous version of this review misnamed The Sword drummer Santiago Vela. Boulder Weekly regrets the error.