• Daniel de Jongh

QOTSA - Festival Hall 20/07/2017

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Since their first visit in 2001, Queens of the Stone Age have been no strangers to Australia, having played Big Day Outs, Soundwave, Splendour in the Grass, a self-titled classic album tour and their previous visit with Nine Inch Nails, to name a few. The result: a crowd of longstanding Queens veterans with a deep bank of memories. Some of us even remember the TV commercial from 2000 that claimed Rated R was “the most anticipated rock album since Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’”.

Missing opener Ecca Vandal who finished at 8:15, I instead battled to a urinal and waited 20 minutes to buy a beer in a dishearteningly long queue. While not lacking in charm, the Festival Hall majorly lacks in the amenities department.

Nevertheless, an ambiguous mesh of queues and stationary bodies waited patiently while subdued by “Afternoon Delight” on loop. The lights dropped and out came Josh’s groovy rendition of Songs for the Deaf opener “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar But Right Now I feel Like a Millionaire” (or, simply known as “Millionaire”). Without pause, the band moved straight into the album’s second track and one of their catchiest, “No One Knows”. Already finding solidarity in headbangs and iconic lyrics, the powerful start won over an already eager crowd.

Compared to tonight, 2014’s highly anticipated tour with Nine Inch Nails felt very flat. A lack of energy, and a setlist dedicated mostly to …Like Clockwork didn’t quite scratch that Queens energy we’ve come to know and love. But the apparent fatigue of their previous tour seems to have dissipated. With a decidedly varied setlist and revived sense of energy, this was a show by a band at the top of their game.

The body of the set moved through tracks mostly off …Like Clockwork, Era Vulgaris and Lullabies to Paralyse, omitting their self-titled effort entirely. Despite 2000’s hype, Rated R was represented only by Queens anthem, Feel Good Hit of the Summer, leaving behind the slow, drawn out rendition from their previous tour for a shorter, heartier version, far more in-tune with the songs intended spirit.

Before the danceable new track “The Way You Used To Do” we were treated to Josh Homme’s treatment of a heckler, and confirmation that he does indeed have regular intercourse with his Fitzroy native girlfriend (see video below). It was a little immature, but good for a few laughs, and anyway, when Josh Homme talks you know most of us are going to listen.

The classic “Make it Wit Chu” was long and jammed out, keeping true to its beginnings as a Desert Sessions jam with PJ Harvey. Following their downbeat bluesy classic came a disclaimer for this tour’s infamous, unreleased song, “The Evil Has Landed”. With us as his testing ground, an unusually vulnerable Homme pleaded “This is a new one. It goes for 6 minutes, some of you won’t like it but just give it a chance please”. What we got was a long and eclectic, yet calculated clash of guitar chords with an atypical lack of emphasis on vocals. The song sounded almost proggy, not catchy, and not particularly radio friendly which was all a bit surprising when compared directly to “The Way You Used To Do”. All this only heightens interest in upcoming new album, “Villains”.

Pre-encore came the crowd pleasing “Go With The Flow”, getting everyone moving and ripe for more. Mere minutes passed before once again storming the stage and belting out a ferocious “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” before moving onto the evening’s closer, “ A Song For The Dead”. Making use of the song’s multiple pauses, Homme took a moment, praised his bandmates, labelled Van Leeuwen a drug addict, and thanked the crowd in what felt nothing short of sincere. Finally, Queens relieved us by drawing out the latter stages of “A Song for the Dead” with that iconic drum beat, and a final chance to sing and headbang our way to the evening’s end.

Queens of the Stone Age are one of those few bands who have found mainstream success while managing to maintain relevance to their rawer beginnings, and on Thursday they proved why. Through notorious changes of sound and lineup, and the rejuvenating effects of side projects and tours with Iggy Pop, Homme and Co. once again proved their stoner rock-cum-mainstream legacy on what is looking to be one of their most energy-driven tours to date.

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