Pic from QOTSA Twitter. Words by Joshua Sindell
Queens of the Stone Age, Royal Blood
Josh Homme lets the applause die down before casually approaching the mic to address the audience for the first time of the evening’s show. “It’s good to be back at the Forum,” he says, as the whoops and hollers re-erupt from among the arena’s 16,000-plus fans in attendance. Homme shrugs, maybe too casually. “Much better than LAST time I was here…” he trails off.
That “last time” for him and Queens of the Stone Age? It was at a December, 2017 KROQ event, when a seemingly drunk and/or uncaring Homme kicked a camera-holding female photographer in the face, sending her to the emergency room and deservedly raining a fuckton of shit and negative publicity on the frontman’s shoulders. (He later apologized.) So … yeah. There’s that.
And now there’s also the fact that the Queens of the Stone Age have solidified around a lineup that bears little resemblance in appearance and attitude to the group that emerged as Homme’s little collective of desert all-stars. Suddenly, after the Era Vulgaris album and tour, three-fifths of the band were new, none of whom were desert-dwellers, and that sense of the band as hometown brothers was forever banished. Cheesy as it might read, sometimes these things matter.
To watch the Queens gradually ascend over 20 years to the status of Forum headliners — the Mount Olympus of West Coast rock-god arenas — is from the viewpoint of their oldest fans both a legitimizing of their brilliance, and also to see their trailblazing roots in the legendary Kyuss fade back ever further into time’s storage. Josh Homme is hardly the first rock musician to refuse to be tethered to the music he first wrote back when he was in his 20s, but the journey to current albums …Like Clockwork and Villains has certainly not come without some drastic changes. Dean Fertita, Michael Shuman and Jon Theodore are exemplary players; heck, technically, Theodore may be the finest drummer the Queens have ever had, and that includes a certain Mr. David Grohl. But you’ll never get the sense that any of them have close to full veto power over Homme at this stage of the game.
Thus Queens of the Stone Age, circa 2018, are a stadium-ready vehicle with Homme comfortably and unquestionably in the driver’s seat. Following a professional and intermittently likable opening performance from British duo Royal Blood, the Queens take the Forum stage. The set is obviously heavily slanted toward …Like Clockwork and Villains, because those 19 songs were created by this ensemble, and to slight them would be both foolish and insulting to the audience who have made those albums the most successful of their career. Visually, though, as an arena band … they kinda suck. If you’re not using overhead spotlights on the players or any type of oversized video screens, your band is either taking the piss or the cheap way out (you decide).
Basing them almost on sound alone, however, the group is readily and often magnificent. The three guitars of Homme, Fertita, and Troy Van Leeuwen sing together in beautiful union, except when they’re not supposed to; Fertita’s rack of keyboards add tremendous atmosphere to the early songs he didn’t write; and Homme’s voice is in fine shape. He brings out Villains producer Mark Ronson to the stage to perform an impromptu version of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and he (mostly) hits all the right notes. (Still. you wonder why on earth they really need a drum solo during “No One Knows.”)
And there are moments that tingle the spine: “I Appear Missing” and “Un-Reborn Again” prove that Homme is currently writing some of his best songs ever, and that line from “You Can’t Quit Me Baby,” which Homme sings as a gentle threat, over and over, “You’re solid gold, I’ll see you in hell,” encapsulates the menace of QOTSA at their finest. The handsome devil allows himself a sly smile. “I’m a very bad man, Los Angeles,” says Homme at some point. “But I fucking love you.”
Overhearing the positive and enthusiastic chatter as the fans left the Forum, it seemed as if the feeling was mutual.
If I Had a Tail
Monsters in the Parasol
My God is the Sun
Feet Don’t Fail Me
The Way You Used to Do
You Can’t Quit Me Baby
No One Knows
The Evil Has Landed
I Sat By the Ocean
Burn the Witch
Make it Wit Chu
I Appear Missing
Villains of Circumstance
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Song for the Dead