The highly anticipated concert of Queens of The Stone Age had started with a frustration for me. The line in front of the Wiltern theater was huge when I arrived and it was not even 6pm, but it was something I had expected. An elderly woman driving by saw the long line, that was going around and around the blocks, and enquired what all the fuss was about. ‘It’s rock’ n’ roll, baby’ a 40-something fan shouted her back with a deep voice, she was confused and couldn’t understand, may be because he had just called her baby, but yeah it was damn hard biting rock’ n’ roll all night long, and all these people were excited in the nicest way of the term. There were a few girls, but it was a crowd dominated by a strong male presence, nevertheless I can say that the QOTSA’s fans were quite nice – a guy hit me with his elbow during the show and he apologized for a full minute! While waiting on line, they were discussing the new album, using a lot the words ‘sick’ and ‘badass’ (so surprising!) and I was observing their uniformly black t-shirts, their occasional Nick Oliveri look and their numerous tattoos.
But my frustration came from another source, after waiting on line for more than hour, a Wiltern guard told me I could not bring in my camera, ‘It’s the band’s request’ he told me seeing that I was insisting and not obeying his order to go back to my car. ‘You can talk to Josh’ he added to justify himself, ‘I can talk to Josh?’ I replied,’ I want to talk to Josh, Bring me Josh!’ He smiled but didn’t review his decision nevertheless. I checked in my camera at the entrance and entered the theater quite frustrated but still just happy to have a ticket.
Ex-collaborator Alain Johannes opened the show with his tiny cigar box guitar and his deep, melodic and amazing voice, which was resonating in the large venue. His songs definitively had QOTSA’s savage and romantic accent despite his stripped down rendition,… however, people were here to listen to loud music and he knew that. He left the stage after just playing a few songs and, for a few seconds, you could feel the tension in the air rising from the crowd left in the dark and waiting for the Queens. I had heard that they would play their entire new album ‘… Like Clockwork’, but I didn’t know how they would do that, I was kind of expecting they would play it in order and then finish up with a few oldies in the encore, but it turned out it would not be the case at all.
Instead, they started with the opening song of the album ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’, then revisited right away some good old ones for the joy of the euphoric crowd. For two hours they kept us on the edge of a hard rock seat, repetitively blowing the roof of the Wiltern, demonstrating again and again they are one of the greatest live rock bands. Alternating between new and old songs, they appeared very confident, at ease and in control of the large venue, Josh Homme even said it was like playing in his own backyard!
After a few songs, he thought it was time to properly introduce things, and making an allusion to the live recording of the show, he said: ‘Wiltern this is a big recording for NPR, rest of the world this is Wiltern, Wiltern this is the rest of the world,.. so be on your best behavior!’
The music was flooding the space and the monster sound was the kind of thing my iPhone couldn’t handle – I tried to film a little bit when the guard wasn’t watching but it sounds like crap. It was big and grandiose, dramatic and powerful, with songs that had the effect of a roller coaster fast ride according to the happy ‘yaahooooos’ the guys around me were making. During the new and powerful song ‘My god is the sun’ the head banging was out of control and someone behind me shouted in a release of pure joy, ‘It’s like the 70s again!’ But as badass as these fans were, there was no pushing or moshing, just some controlled dancing, may be it was the music or they were just too stoned!
QOTSA haven’t released any new material for six years and I can understand the delectation of die-hard fans hearing these new ones live for the first time. The force and fury that the band is live, but also the groovy dance rhythms and the emotional passionate melodies merging with Josh Homme’s vocals going from falsetto to deep growl, were reinforced by the same creepy visuals than in their recent videos, designed by artists Boneface and Liam Brazier, and projected on a spectacular large screen. Some other animations with the most dramatic effect were also used during other songs, such as these flashy red neon QOTSA letters on a stormy sky, or these black crows flying over the stage.
Soon, smoke was escaping from the crowd and the strong odor of weed made me caught a bit,… they are not called stoner rockers for nothing, although they hit very hard on the guitars for stoners! A guy around me choose to light up a joint during the slower ‘Kalopsia’ but since we were a few feet away from the guard in the pit, he had to stop right away.
The riffs were heavy and aggressive, the bass was mean and dirty, the numerous keyboards were layered and vibrant, the sound was electrifying, dense and thunderous and Josh Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitars, Michael Shuman on bass, Dean Fertita on guitar and keys, Jon Theodore on drums were playing with the assurance of some guys conquering a new land. A massive red sun appeared on the screen during ‘I Think I Lost my Headache’ reminding their desert origins, ‘I had an headache all week long’ said the QOTSA frontman before playing the stoner aggressive song.
Josh Homme sounded more than ever like a rock god, the elaborated and empowering sound was a mix of aggression and beauty as always, mysteriously inducing sometimes a feeling of falling from mountains built by tremendous guitar riffs. They came back for an encore of three songs, and Josh Homme even began a few lines from Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ during ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’, singing ‘They try to make me go to rehab, I say no, no, no…’ They left us with an earth-opening monster version of ‘A Song for the Dead’, then Josh Homme hooked his guitar on the mic and waved bye bye,… people didn’t want to let them go, but it was over. According to NME and the LA Weekly, Jack White and Morrissey were in the audience, although I didn’t see any of them. Apparently, Morrissey left after a few songs, may be it was too much of a macho sound the British rocker could handle?
Setlist (although they switched ‘Little Sister’ with ‘Turning on the Screw’:
I don’t know how long this will last, but you can watch the whole show below, thanks to NPR!
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