Josh Homme and his band of misfits hit the windy city again Monday night for another consistently amazing performance as Queens of the Stone Age begin to wind down the tour for last year's best LP, ...Like Clockwork. The audience at the historic and always steamy Aragon Ballroom were treated to an excellent blend of songs, old and new, with hit singles and obscure b-sides all on board. For fans who saw them at last year's Lollapalooza festival, at Detroit's Fillmore, or any of the other many shows they've performed over the past year, it was notable that the sets at recent shows have featured a different combination of songs which have changed the feel of the show, accordingly. The band's thrilling light show was one of the most enjoyable elements of their performance, Monday night.
Drummer Jon Theodore led the band through the set with commanding power, and bassist Mike Shuman, who also celebrated his birthday during this raucous Cinco de Mayo concert, dropped some heavy tones and a great distorted bass on several of the heavier and faster songs. When Homme announced to the audience that it was the bassist's birthday, the audience broke out in an impromptu rendition of "Happy Birthday to You," which brought smiles to the stage and across the floor. As the set neared its end, Homme became distracted by a fan with a sign claiming to be the singer/guitarist's son. The playful banter between the stage and the fan reminded the rest of the crowd of the band's clever, yet contemptuous relationship with its audience, which still leans more toward fun than mean but is an important part of the band's history and identity.
The well-programmed light and smoke show added a significant visual layer to the songs with a color-drenched stage that changed from purple to red to blue throughout the early songs in the set. After bringing things down with "...Like Clockwork" and then back up again with "Little Sister," the fog machine kicked into high gear and allowed for a combination of bright strobe lights and morphing blends of softer-colored lights, most notably during an epic, 10-minute rendition of "Better Living Through Chemistry" which saw some concert-goers dropping back and beginning to exit early while most could not help but to be drawn in closer by the hypnotic modern-psychedelia of the blistering guitar harmonies of Homme and Troy VanLeeuwen. Shortly after the first chorus of the song, where there is only a brief pause on the recorded version, the band allowed a lively mix of loud feedback to become the focus before continuing the song which brought elements and memories of Sonic Youth and Nirvana into the room without any other acknowledgement, as if it were necessary.
After a short encore break and a somber rendition of "The Vampyre of Time and Memory," the band broke into their notorious classic, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," in which Homme led the audience in a rhythmic clap-along to the hypnotic and immediately-recognizable beat. This was one of the strongest interactions of the night between the band and the crowd. The traditional closer, "A Song for the Dead" blew away what was left of the audience as it has been doing consistently for about 14 years, on-and-off, and the sweaty crowd emptied out into the cool, Chicago night. Those lucky enough to be local and quick on ticketmaster will see QOTSA again when they return to The Aragon Ballroom Friday night, but this only draws attention to the fact that they did not choose to pass through their old stomping grounds of The Orbit Room In Grand Rapids while touring for this particular album, which is a shame. Hopefully, there will be another opportunity that will come along with the band's next release, if and when there is one. This group will draw an audience as long as they choose to continue performing.
You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
No One Knows
My God is the Sun
In My Head
If I Had a Tail
Make It Wit Chu
The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died
I Sat by the Ocean
3's & 7's
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
Better Living Through Chemistry
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
Feel Good Hit of the Summer
A Song for the Dead