Sandwiched between arena sets in Boston and New York City, Queens of the Stone Age worked in a thrasher of a performance at Portland Maine’s State Theater on October 22nd for a rabid, sold-out crowd of 1,800 that was literally louder than the band.
Prior to the Queens taking the stage, their audience was treated to an opening set from the British duo, Royal Blood. Although they are strictly a drum and bass outfit, bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr uses a series of pitch shifting pedals that let him feed his audience ear piercing solos that sound like they came out of a Fender Stratocaster. As far as two guys on one stage go, these dudes can hold their own, but as they continue to build a following (which currently includes Jimmy Page as a fan), they might find value in taking the Black Keys route and augmenting their lineup with a few auxiliary performers to flesh out their sound.
As for Queens of the Stone Age, they’ve been touring in support of the critically acclaimed Villains almost non-stop and their Portland set featured over half the album, in addition to the bulk of 2013’s …Like Clockwork. Where the ninety-minute set was heavy on material from their last two albums, it completely ignored their first two releases. When you looked at what material got love and what was ignored, it was clear that frontman/bandleader Josh Homme was placing emphasis on songs that the current lineup performed on. Troy Van Leeuwen has been playing guitars and synth for QOTSA since ’02 and has become even more of a sidekick to Homme since the firing of bassist/founding member Nick Oliveri. It can be easy to ignore the man behind the drum kit when you’ve got such a certifiable rock star like Homme at the foot of the stage but the beat keeping of Jon Theodore has become the backbone of QOTSA’s material over the past two albums and the emphasis on material he performed on was a good call.
Theodore rose to prominence as the drummer for The Mars Volta and went on to record with Zach De La Rocha on One Day As A Lion and in addition to Queens, Van Leeuwen has held membership in A Perfect Circle. Plenty of frontmen are self-conscious about how much attention is given to their sidekicks but throughout the entire night, Homme was the least active performer on stage.
Van Leeuwen has a graceful, bougie fluidity to his movements that brings to mind performers ranging from The Cure to the Liberace and bassist Michael Shuman was kicking into the air all night like he was trying to knock down an invisible door. That said, where Homme lacks flashy moves, he delivers in raw, effortless charisma. He has a snarky way of wiggling his butt around that’s humorous while delivering genuine Rock ‘n’ Roll sex appeal. He was light on commentary throughout the night but what he did say was bit cryptic, condemning both sides of the political isle and before playing “Domesticated Animals,” telling his audience you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a live bridge fire.
QOTSA ended the set with an encore of “A Song For The Dead” that’s been their go-to show closer as late. Their crowd remained as rabid at 11pm as they were when they walked in the door and judging from the amount of people saying they caught the show in Boston the night before and the one in DC before that, there’s a good chance plenty of the folks filing out of the theater were on their way to NYC to catch QOTSA at Madison Square Garden. The very fact that fans are traveling to catch multiple dates of the tour demonstrates they’re too big to be playing in theaters, which underscores how special a night this was. This was a show folks in attendance will be bragging about down the road when the very notion of QOTSA playing a theater will seem hard to believe. That point in time isn’t that far away.