Queens of the Stone Age, Roundhouse, London
Monday 23 May 2011
Tonight is Queens of the Stone Age founder Josh Homme's birthday, causing a display of rare celebratory behaviour from the usually distant frontman. "I am 12 years old," he deadpans, as if remembering the age of the little-heard album he is revisiting on this tour.
While veteran acts are usually comfortable playing classic albums in their entirety, Homme has chosen to resurrect one that got away. In 2000, the Californian band came to fame when signed to Interscope with their second album Rated R, its vision inspired more by hedonism than grunge's sulky introspection.
Many fans had missed out on the group's debut two years before that provided a link between the sharp edges of breakthrough hit "Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" and the lysergic desert rock of Homme's formative years in Kyuss. That influential outfit's sound was shaped at wild parties in barren country, and a version of the group reformed earlier this year, though having revisited the second album last year (it is four years since new material, apart from supergroup Them Crooked Vultures) Homme has stuck with QOTSA's current incarnation.
It proves an inspired decision as a now settled line-up beefs up the sketchy tunes that were essentially recorded by Homme and one other. Michael Shuman's basslines rumble up from some underground cavern, while the two guitars churn implacably. The four anonymous sidemen are made in their founder's image, which is fine for the machine rhythms of "Regular Jon", though you do miss the subversion of former member Nick Oliveri.
You hear intimations of future glory in the primitive Stooges-style riffing of "If Only", though this collection of tunes stands up on its own and needs little adjustment to work as a live set. Homme gives his already distracted vocals a robotic effect on "You Would Know" highlighting his mission to make rock danceable with techno-style efficiency. Yet any gig needs a climax and QOTSA supply just that.
First, the soft album closer "I Was a Teenage Hand Model" comes with needling piano chords to the fore before "You Can't Quit Me Baby" gives the band their opportunity to stretch out over Joey Castillo's circular drum pattern. As the tune unspools in ever more uncanny shapes, the band prove they can even make jamming look cool.
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