tue 15/10/2019

Queens of the Stone Age, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Queens of the Stone Age, Roundhouse

Queens of the Stone Age, Roundhouse

Grunge rocker celebrates his birthday with a mind-bending concert

Josh Homme: Guitar work that threatens to blow the roof off

“Tonight there’s no one else in the world – just us together,” announced Josh Homme halfway through the night. And it felt so. But it didn't seem like we were in the Roundhouse. More like we were sitting amid the heat haze of California’s Palm Desert, on a two-hour psychedelic trip, and the Queens of the Stone Age front man was our personal shaman. Sometimes it was euphoric, and other times it was dizzying. And when the volume was cranked really high it was like the top of the Roundhouse might blow off.

This world tour is supporting the reissue of the band’s eponymous debut recording. As such, the first half of the set offered up few surprises. The album was played more or less straight and in its entirety. What was more of a revelation was how well the music stands up 13 years after it emerged from the frazzled rock of the Palm Desert scene. Whether you consider Queens of the Stone Age to be a band or a vehicle for Homme – it has been both – the first album now seems like it was their mission statement. They’ve never been afraid to innovate and experiment, but nor has their core sound left the psychedelic, melodic rumble reminiscent of the best of Hawkwind.

The crowd of everything from students to fried-out old rockers and exotically tattooed girls nodded their heads, punched devil’s horn signs and took lots and lots of photos on iPhonesLast night’s journey through the Queens of the Stone Age back catalogue was enough to make Lemmy wish he’d never left his psychedelic days. Musically the freshman album was played harder and heavier than the recording. In places, like “Walking on the Sidewalks” and “You Would Know”, it was downright brutal, like Black Sabbath in the early Seventies. But on “Regular John”, "Avon" and “If Only” it sounded like the good times were coming. And quite right. As Homme declared early on, whilst swigging vodka and smoking on stage, it was his “f*cking birthday” and please could we "party and pogo". It looked pretty rambunctious in the mosh area and I can’t imagine that the amount of beer being thrown around was anything less than irritating. But mainly the crowd of everything from students to fried-out old rockers and exotically tattooed girls nodded their heads, punched devil’s horn signs and took lots and lots of photos on iPhones. Queens of the Stone Age is generally classified as stoner rock, a kind of turbo-grunge on acid. But the amount of guitar heroics that Homme and second guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen managed to wring out seemed more in keeping with one of metal’s sub-genres. As did many of the riffs, such as the Metallica-isms Homme and Van Leeuwen sparred with in “Hispanic Impressions”. Not unexpectedly from the Roundhouse, the sound was excellent: the instruments were clear, the drums thundered and Homme’s powerful yet deceptively sweet voice was given full rein to soar. The album’s a pretty relentless piece of music and for the most part Homme was on full throttle, but whenthe tension was released on “I Was a Teenage Hand Model”, a piano boogie and “silly song about not giving a f*ck”, the effect was stunning

QOTSAThe two sets of encores that followed Queens of the Stone Age (pictured right) felt more like a second half. A series of tubular LED lights were lowered down, and the band started taking requests. It was here that they really showed what a diverse and musically inventive act they developed into. The stomp of “Burn the Witch” gave way to the Beck/Prince-style funk of “Make it Wit Chu”, Homme’s voice sounding warm and sensuous. “Hangin’ Tree”, originally recorded with Mark Lanegan on vocals, seemed a little improvised in its new form, but maybe the biggest surprise of the evening was a rare outing of “I Never Came”, which, with its gorgeous effects-driven guitar, dance rhythms and lovely sad vocals, sounded like something James Murphy might have come up with. By the whooping and cheering, I think the crowd agreed it was a rare place we’d been taken to.

The last three songs of the night, “Little Sister”, “Sick, Sick, Sick”, and “Go With the Flow” werethrashy, punky crowd-pleasers. By the end the room had been carpeted in plastic beer glasses, and spontaneous crowd-surfing had broken out.

As a birthday present to himself, I am sure that Homme was delighted with how it all worked out. In fact at one point he asked for the lights to be turned on, so he could “soak it all up”. For fans, that's pretty good news. After his work with Them Crooked Vultures, a project that echoed the heady days of Cream in the Sixties, many wondered whether Queens of the Stone Age might be dead. In fact, every time Homme starts a new project, the rumour mill starts that he’s done with Stone Age sound. Well, he might just be touring a reissue of an album, but it seems that this is a job he just can’t resign from.

Watch Queens of the Stone Age perform "Avon" at Glastonbury 2002

Comments

Saw them perform that song live in Atanta, March 21, 2011, on my birthday! Wasn't Dave Grohl on the drums but still awesome!! What an great encore, 2!! Saw Crooked Vultures the year before at the Tabernacle. AMAZING, too. Any band Josh is in da bomb. Want more of both. Love you guys! Cindy

I was there, it was unbelievable. Josh Homme is so charismatic and they are so good musicians that it perfectly works for me ;-)) Thanks for posting this Avon version w dave Grohl, my fav Avon performance ever!!

Was there (my birthday as well), musically it was superb, every little bit was down to a T, the band were on top form, Joey was great, Troy smashed it and Shuman killed it (even with his silly hair cut), and well Josh is weeeeell one of the greatest.... buuuuuuut the crowd were lifeless and a bunch of soppy london tourists, such a shame on his (and my) birthday. I have come to terms now that the bigger gigs in London are the ones to avoid. Manchester was the rocking gig, even Josh was gobsmacked, and being a Laaaandaner myself it is hard to admit that.

This was an amazing gig.. I was going to Mexico two days later and thought this would be a starter before the main course but it was a meal before a meal... Seeing you guys in LA in August was cool, we got soo close but at the roundhouse it was a different pace..The first album is raw and one of my favourites, I Never Came, rocked so hard, i lost my breath and then enjoyed a little crowd surfing at the end. Best Gig Ever..I get totally lost in this music, never ever stop....

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.