Queens of the Stone Age: O2, Dublin – live review
Support tonight comes from Queen’s guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen’s side project Sweethead. Lead singer Serrina Sims looks and sounds out of her depth on the large stage. Live, they lack punch, and the crowd are indifferent. The band might sound better in a smaller club setting, but tonight they are little more than a hurdle to the main event.
QOTSA on the other hand manage to make this 13,000 capacity venue feel like a club, they don’t scrimp on spectacle, but the show feels intimate. Anticipation builds through the changeover, and is paramount by the time the backdrop screen begins to countdown, You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire bursts out of the amps, the crowd erupt and its lift off. Visually it’s an extravaganza, with some slightly disorienting lighting that’s toned down after the opener, the band having embraced these increasingly larger venues they play, without losing any of their impact. This is their largest non-festival date in Ireland so far. Millionaire is followed by an intense No One Knows, two crowd pleasing opening numbers that ensure an energetic beginning. My God Is The Sun, the first single, and the first track tonight from Like Clockwork. The set leans heavy on the current album, with all but one track included in the set. The album has rightly been hailed by critics as one their best and live it sounds incredible. By all accounts it was the most difficult for Homme, depressed after an injury that saw him immobile for four months, the material stems from a dark place, but is full of sex and swagger. The band’s hard work paid off when it made its début at no 1 in the US, their highest ever chart position.
After the first couple of songs, Homme acknowledges, and starts to talk to the crowd. He expresses his love for Dublin, “Turn up the lights… god I love this town”, relays humorous anecdotes and one line introductions to songs, “this song’s about taking LSD” (Monsters in the Parasol) and “this is about snogging in secret” (The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret). The story of a tour bus stowaway on their last visit is a highlight. The smell of the McDonalds he was ingesting blew his cover, Homme reacted, “friend, what the fuck are you doing?”, “I’m just hungry”, “You might be hungry, but you’re fucking crazy too!” After being thrown from the van, the guy pursued the band for “12 blocks”, pausing at red lights to give the finger to the band and take a bite from his coveted burger. He stayed in pursuit until they reached the hotel, and even managed to blag his way into the bar later.
The title track of the latest album is a slow tempo number that really emphasises the fantastic vocal variations Homme is capable of. It’s audible again on I Sat By The Ocean as he stretches his vocal range, hitting impressive high notes that gel excellently with distorted guitars that ring out through the auditorium, and later again on a soulful Kalopsia with its dedicated crowd accompaniment, and on the Langegan co penned Fairweather Friends with its delicate vocal that follows an unsettling intro, “Slowly, can one so lost be found?” They take it up a notch and it meanders from a loose experimental grove to a more articulated vocal, before climaxing in a sea of noisy instrumental experimentation. These soulful thoughtful numbers fit seamlessly alongside the heavier muscular anthems such as the chugging guitar riff of Misfit Love, the siren like cry opening of Sick, Sick, Sick and Little Sister with its cowbell intro inspires shirts to come off en masse, and the party is in full swing.
Often referred to as stoner rock, the tag doesn’t do them justice, diversity is key with QOTSA, and that’s perfectly realised tonight. The band play around with elements of glam rock and disco, thoughtful ballads, as well as the anthemic rock they are better known for. Whatever they do, there is always an underlying grove, if you’re dancing, you’re gonna be moving your hips, and Homme embodies that whether he is gently gyrating with his guitar, or moving about the stage with an authoritative strut. This is proven in numbers such as the phenomenal If I Had a Tail, the audience enthusiastically cut loose and throw their bodies at the mercy of the music, yelling out the “Yeah, oh oh, oh oh, oh oh, Yeah, oh oh, oh oh, oh oh la” chorus to what seems to be one of the band’s newest crowd pleaser. It’s that juxtaposition that makes Homme such an engaging front man, for all his macho swagger, he oozes a groovy sensitivity too. At his side he is flanked by Van Leeuwen and Michael Shuman, who throw themselves into the gig with such expressive gusto their movements at times take on the appearance of having been choreographed.
The visually arresting constantly changing backdrop really enhances the show. Fans will be familiar with a lot of the material, as much of it has been posted online to accompany tracks from Clockwork, the most recent of which is the groundbreaking interactive video for The Vampyre of Time and Memory. The band have clearly embraced their arty side, but Homme’s openness to experimenting always makes them a step away from the pack. They’re a band that appeal to both a male and female audience equally and that allure is evident in tonight’s audience, a metal crowd mix with Indie kids, and the ages range from teenagers to their grandparents.
Later, it seems like Josh Homme is telling someone in the front they can do what they want. The interaction is clarified a couple of moments later when Josh reprimands the security guys, “Hey security, this is a Queens of the Stone Age concert, they can do whatever they want” “You can sit on each other’s shoulders, record the show, whatever… ye guys know how to have a good time without hurting each other, right?”, a girl in front reacts by ripping off her shirt, “you know what I’m talking about baby”. There is an air of seductive occasion in the air as girls take to their partner’s shoulders, and grown men too, dry humping the back of friends (or strangers) heads. This atmosphere reaches a climax later when a heavier sounding Make it Wit Chu has an audience sweaty and passionately singing the chorus “I wanna make it, I wanna make it wit chuuuuuuuu …”
Security might berate the occasional crowd surfer who makes it over the barrier, but judging by the glee on their face, they Don’t give a shit, they have permission from the man in charge. Homme later adds as he introduces Smooth Sailing, “We just wanna drink and have a good time, and then go home and fuck the shit out of each other”. Dean Fertita coming out from behind his keys to a add a little weight with some extra guitar. Newest member Jon Theodore has assimilated well into the band, and plays a blinder on drums. The whole band are fantastic, really becoming liberated on Smooth and later Better Living Through Chemistry, throwing expressive shapes, and passionately thrusting their whole bodies, as well as their lightning fast fingers. It finally comes for that time of the night “where we just go with the flow,” and unsurprisingly the crowd go nuts for the final number from the Songs for the Deaf favourite, the album that exploded the band into the stratosphere. The backdrop visuals are stunning, but nothing can compete with the aesthetic of several thousand people jumping around in a sea of deranged euphoria.
In the buildup to the encore a large crater like hole appears in the crowd, regardless of what’s being played, there’s planned carnage. The kibosh is put on that momentarily when Homme returns, cigarette in hand and perches in front of the piano for a rendition of the brilliant sombre and macabre The Vampyre of Time and Memory. Things get heavier for I Appear Missing, and revellers get the chance to partake in pit fun. Homme fluffs some lines, but it doesn’t detract as people are clinging on to these last few moments, willing the concert to keep going. As the backdrop visual ends, you can sense that it’s not the end, and they’re about to go out heavy. They don’t disappoint and bring an excellent two hour show to a magnificent and climatic close with A Song for the Dead.
Queens of the Stone Age are a band that unify fans of varied genres. Josh Homme’s crew moves effortlessly from fragile ballads, to heavier numbers with meaty infectious guitar hooks that nearly reduced this Dublin venue to rubble. In 2013 Queens of the Stone Age have released one of the albums of the year, they proved tonight that’s in not just in the studio that the excel, but live they are on top of their game, and they realised it magnificently in Dublin this evening.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
- 25 November 13, Antwerp, Belgium – Sportpaleis
- 26 November 13, Amsterdam, Netherlands – Ziggo Dome
- 28 November 13, Hamburg, Germany – O2 World
- 29 November 13, Copenhagen, Denmark – The Forum
- 1 December 13, Oslo, Norway – Spektrum
All words by Ray Burke. More of Ray’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Ray’s radio show is Left of the Dial, to hear old shows go here. You can also follow Ray on twitter as @leftofthedialr