vista chino@Newcastle O2 Academy 2, November 6 2013

It’s a fair bet that few, if any, members of tonight’s audience saw Kyuss in their original form. The US desert rockers left a slew of incredible albums in their wake before splitting in 1995, their loose, stoner grooves enrapturing a generation of fans and spawning many an imitator. The band’s place on the “wish I’d seen them live” list grew with their legacy. 

The news of their (partial) resurrection in 2010, therefore, under the Kyuss Lives banner, had many a plaid shirt wearing beardy smiling from ear to ear. This was a chance to hear classics such as Gardenia and Asteroid played by (at least some of) the men who created them.

Now operating as Vista Chino, former Kyuss stalwarts John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork, accompanied by Belgian six stringer Bruno Fevery, delivered a very fine album in Peace, earlier this year.

So there was some disappointment that last night, their show had been shifted upstairs for the more intimate surroundings of Academy 2… maybe their name change – the result of a law suit from Josh Homme and  Scott Reeder, caused confusion. Maybe it was just a wet Wednesday night.

The plus side? A room packed to the rafters with eager devotees, rather than a half empty hall.

Hirsute Canadians Monster Truck did a grand job of getting the party started, grinning their way through tracks like the appropriately named Boogie, and the hard rocking stomp of Power To The People… a more appropriate support band you would be hard pushed to find.

With the crowd suitably warmed up, it was surprising to see Vista Chino make a low key entrance, and instead of blasting out a Kyuss classic – or even a one of the heavier tunes from their ‘debut’ – they opted to open with the slow burning 2013 ditty Adara – an odd and underwhelming choice.

And while Monster Truck seemed to enjoy their banter with the Tyneside crowd, Vista vocalist John Garcia didn’t say one word to the audience until the band’s encore. The singer’s voice sounded rich, full and at times, downright incredible, but engaging with his fans seemed off the agenda. Corrosion of Conformity’s Mike Dean, the band’s touring bassist, seemed to be having a whale of a time however, his strawberry blond locks bouncing along to Brant Bjork’s beats.

And you couldn’t fault the band’s delivery either, with a nicely balanced mix of Kyuss ‘covers’ and new material bursting from the PA. Nineteen ninety five’s One Inch Man, following Adara, started the trip down memory lane, while the crushing, heads down riffs of Dargona Dragona, from Peace,  reminded everyone that Vista Chino are a powerful creative force… and not just a cabaret act. This was reinforced by the quartet surprisingly opening their encore with Planets 1 and 2, also from this year’s full length.

Of course, it was riff after riff of glorious, sun-drenched, weed infused Kyussrock which drew the biggest cheers, and when you have tunes as strong as Gardenia, Green Machine and the pulverising Thumb in your armoury, you can’t really fail.

Closer Odyssey, with Fevery in particular fine form, was really something to savour.

So while last night wasn’t exactly a triumphant appearance from Vista Chino, it certainly proved one thing; that in their hearts and ours, Kyuss still lives.

Richard Holmes