Over two decades on, Josh Homme and company are still a tour de force on stage
Last night at Forest Hills Stadium, rock juggernauts Queens of the Stone Age took the stage for their return to the Big Apple. The show, which poetically took place in the heart of Queens, New York, served as further testament to the band’s legacy as one of the most visceral live acts on earth. Frontman Josh Homme and the rest of the gang rip the meat right off the bone and serve it up with absolutely no filler. The set featured cuts from their new album, along with a hefty serving of past hits.
Just as the sun was setting, the band took the stage and got right down to business. They kicked off the evening’s festivities with their seminal smash “No One Knows” from their watershed album Songs for the Deaf. A select few artists get to a point in their career where they can open with arguably their biggest hit. Queens of the Stone Age are breathing that rare air right now.
They followed it up with “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” and then “Smooth Sailing.” The latter track has a groove so filthy you feel like you need a shower afterwards, and drummer Jon Theodore just crushes it live. A defining slab of alt-rock, it is undoubtedly one of the most finely crafted songs in the group’s entire catalog.
“I feel so free,” Homme stated shortly into the set. “Do you feel free?” As the crowd cheered in agreement, he requested, “Turn the lights down. People do what they fuckin’ do in the darkness, and we’re here to provide the darkness.” All the while, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen was setting the mood with eerie opening notes of “If I Had a Tail.” Homme even pointed up to the spotlight that was shining on him, and signaled for the crew to shut it off. It further reinforce the inexplicable shroud of mystery that surrounds Queens of the Stone Age.
“We’re just here to make you fuckin’ dance and cut loose,” Josh added before the band into the song’s dark, cold riff.
They stayed on the same record, but shifted gears a bit to the more upbeat (musically, not lyrically) “I Sat by the Ocean.”
After ripping through the fast-paced “The Way You Used to Do,” Homme took an opportunity to promote the band’s new record with a little crowd interaction. He polled the audience, asking them to chose which song they wanted to hear next – “Time & Place” or “Made to Parade.” They chose the latter, and it sounded brutally heavy in a live setting.
One of the night’s best highlights came towards the end of the set. The band busted out “Straight Jacket Fitting,” one of the better tracks from their latest studio effort that got its live debut a few days ago in Philadelphia. The Doors-inspired song grooves slow and heavy for nine whole minutes; plenty of time for some on-stage shenanigans. Homme started the song playing guitar and signing from behind his mic stand. A few minutes in, he ditched his ax, grabbed the mic, and began to venture. He stepped off the stage and began hopping from one stack to the next the pit.
Then, he started to climb the scaffolding on the side of the stage. As he hung off the structure with one arm while holding the mic in the other, in that moment, you felt a sense of danger. Not so much in the way that the crowd might get injured, but, more so, the unpredictability of the situation. The show got dangerous because you really didn’t know what was going to happen next. That’s something that has been missing in rock ‘n’ roll as of late, and it’s about fuckin’ time it gets brought back.
The show came to a furious close with “A Song for the Dead.” The thrashy intro sent the crowd into a frenzy, with two separate circle pits breaking out. Homme and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen were trading licks while bassist Michael Shuman was headbanging away. It was such a pure rock ‘n’ roll moment, and a perfect way to end a stellar gig.
Queens of the Stone Age are firing on all cylinders right now. The band’s current lineup has been a steady configuration for a decade now. They’re live performances are incredibly tight, but still have some of the messiness and unpredictability that makes rock ‘n’ roll great. The group’s last three albums have received much critical acclaim and praise from fans, in addition to performing well commercially. Next spring, they should be a fine choice to top any festival bill.
Raw and dangerous, bands like Queens of the Stone Age are keeping guitar-driven music alive and well.