Josh is a big man, but his leg is out of shape. It’s hard to rock your muse when you’re in pain and toasting the audience from a plastic cup of water. It’s even harder to work a crowd into a Thursday night frenzy when it’s 7C outside and three sides of the venue stay in their seats and clap politely at the end of each song like they’re in a piano recital. Welcome to the venerable Festival Hall experience, folks.
Queens of the Stone Age are a pugnacious elite musical unit, beloved for 20 years. In two decades Homme, the coolest quiff in rock, our combined Hannibal, BA, Face and Murdoch on the mic and MotorAve guitars, has steadily evolved his band into a crack special forces gang; the A Team of Rock.
Michael Shuman is chief lieutenant, or perhaps sergeant-at-arms. He brings limitless energy and a great big scudding bass tone to the all-important Queens engine room. Theirs is a temple built on riffs and a deceptively tight groove. Nick Oliveri’s paratrooper boots have been well filled by Mikey Shoes.
In Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita he has a couple of Swiss Army Knives capable of adding atmospherics or critical mass as needed, and on multiple instruments. Special weapons for such a musically inventive mind.
The octopus in the room is on the drum stool. Jon Theodore is an exceptional drummer. Unfortunately he has Dave Grohl and Joey Castillo sat just behind him, and their iconic drum parts to replicate. This tricky task tonight isn’t helped by the house mix. His snare, for example, is almost inaudible, which is a great shame. Especially during Song for the Dead.
There is no active rock band, Foo Fighters included, who can draw from such a well of great songs. Want iconic riffs? Here’s No One Knows. Want “the best song we have?” The heartbreaking song about heart-stopping, I Appear Missing. If there’s a deep irony to witnessing this crowd chanting the mantra of Feel Good Hit of the Summer tonight, it still works.
And then there’s the new ones. Josh introduces both with a charming humility, but there’s nothing wrong with the double octave guitar riff of The Evil Has Landed, and the song is crafted and inventive, layered and ambitious.
It’s a treat to hear this great band open up – to hear some of Josh’s “Hendrix bends” here, a little Troy shred there. They have become standard bearers for a certain level of musical skill and attitude that’s fading fast. We can only hope they return soon, with a personal plea for them to try a theatre residency or two: 170 Russell anyone?