Hotter than hell
Queens of the Stone Age play dirty for a sweaty sold-out crowd
It was one of those heavy, sticky kinds of heat—the kind where the humidity is thick enough to capture every little smell and fluid that escapes into the atmosphere. Add to that about 1,000 water-logged rock fans and you’ve got yourself a living sauna.
In other words, it was nasty hot in the Senator Theatre, hot and muggy enough to draw comparisons to the Modest Mouse show back in July 2004. But if you ask me, the climate was the perfect accompaniment for what was happening on stage.
Call it disgustingly beautiful.
A loud, raunchy rock band called Queens of the Stone Age was there to add some more sludge to the heavy air. It had all the makings of the perfect rock show—a packed house, a hot summer night, and one of the biggest rock bands in the world (at least as far as sound) that itself teeters on heaviness and sexiness … and maybe a hint of godliness.
Sounding a bit like Queens, The Gasoline Angels opened things up with their own riff-heavy assault, and per usual some attendees were either in the upstairs balcony drinking beer from plastic cups, or down the street at the much cooler (temperature-wise, at least) front-yard pre-party or a downtown watering hole.
After a short intermission, the house lights came down, followed by a mass flood toward the stage, which was lit by six metal chandeliers sprouting from columns that resembled set pieces from a campy ‘50s sci-fi flick.
“Let’s dance,” said guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme, as the riffage cut through the swampy air. By the time the band ripped into its second number, “Burn the Witch” from 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, the temperature had risen a few degrees.
The band seemed to be relishing the intimacy of the old Senator Theatre, as Homme would often strike up mock conversations with the people in the front row. Of course, that’s what the Queens frontman wanted with the “Duluth” tour, which is taking the band through the smaller towns across the country that need some rock, too. And the crowd responded, communicating in a sweaty mass on the floor.
Homme—who started QOTSA with former bassist Nick Oliveri after their proto-stoner rock project Kyuss called it quits—is not your typical frontman. In fact, he’s painfully average-looking, resembling former late-night smart ass Craig Kilborn, with his neatly styled coif of redish hair and a tucked-in button-down shirt. But the poster boy for rock ‘n’ roll normalcy is the face of Queens of the Stone Age, having brought a revolving door of musicians into the fold over the years, including the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan from Screaming Trees.
Now with his new crew in tow, Homme rifled through an hour-long set that pulled from almost the entire catalog, including the band’s latest, Era Vulgaris. QOTSA’s music has always been built around the almighty riff, but newer songs like “Make It Wit Chu” and “3’s & 7’s” took on a more dance-y feel with keyboardist Dean Fertita adding some cushion to the jagged guitars.
The psychedelic gloom of “Better Living Through Chemistry” from 2000’s break-through record Rated R proved to be a high point as the band broke down in a feedback-drenched freak out before returning to the main riff. But it was the feel-good hit of the summer, “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” that got the biggest crowd response, while songs like “Go With the Flow” and “No One Knows” showed off Homme’s knack for marrying big rock riffs with pop hooks. And Homme’s guitar work was as neat as his appearance, ripping into his fair share of solos that kept their distance from wankery.
Could it get any hotter? Not likely. It was miserable to many, but to some it was what a rock show is all about—sweaty, dirty and exhausting. After the band left the stage and the crowd poured out of the Senator more than a fair share of individuals felt the need to smoke a cigarette.