The mood matched the music last Thursday when one of modern rock's most talented and diverse groups, Queens of the Stone Age, returned to the stage at The Fillmore in Detroit. This line-up of the band has been playing variations of a similar show for about 6 months now, and it has obviously grown into a well-oiled machine. Queens performed 9 of the 10 tracks from their excellent, recent LP, ...Like Clockwork, and the show was built around the dark textures and moods within those particular songs. Everything from the stage lighting to the remaining song selection seemed to fit right into the feel of the spotlighted, newer tracks. Front man Josh Homme led the band through a blistering and very rocking set, and the nearly capacity crowd warmly welcomed and received each song throughout the night.
The evening began with a brief but strong rain storm down pouring on the faithful fans waiting in line for the doors to open. Homme commented on this within the first few minutes of Queens' set, and he was sure to thank those who had to deal with the temporary discomfort. The opening act, a psych-rock combo called Guards, was engaging to most with a blend of melodic and atmospheric rock that paired well with slight electronic accompaniment and had a hypnotic repetition that matched up well with QOTSA's signature sound. The crowd was ready by time the headliners took the stage just after 9:30pm.
The band took the stage to the sound effects that open their latest album, then tore into the opening track from that record, "Keep Your Eyes Peeled." It was clear that the audience was well-versed in the band's latest material, and that helped propel even the casual fans to get caught up in the lights and sounds of tunes with which they may not have been as familiar compared to classics like "No One Knows" and "Little Sister," which were also performed perfectly during this concert. Some notable moments included the strobe light attack that ran with almost no interruption throughout the entirety of "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire," now sung by Homme in lieu of long-departed bassist Nick Oliveri, the reflective and emotional performance of the piano-ballad title track, "...Like Clockwork," and rare performances of deep cuts from the band's second album, "In the Fade," and "Better Living Through Chemistry," both of which elicited a strong response from the crowd.
The best interaction with the audience came during the opening notes of "Burn the Witch," a hit single from the band's fourth album, Lullabies to Paralyze. As the band sloppily jammed the opening notes, only barely maintaining the signature rests in each measure, the audience filled in the ghostly vocal fill that actually only appears in one spot of the recorded version, while during this show, it was repeated through most of the song. The audience's response to this song has grown over time and is a perfect analogy to its relationship with the band itself. The progression from newly discovered curiosity, to personal favorite, to well-known standard, has helped propel the band from underground rock unknowns to vanguards of the grunge and alternative sounds of the early and mid 90s, a flag they carry and wave well, if not necessarily with intentional pride.
Overall, the newest songs received the most care and attention during this show, and stand outs including "My God is the Sun," "Kalopsia," and "I Appear Missing" did not take away from the old favorites or the traditional closer, an intensely furious rendition of "Song for the Dead." Whether the band will be around again to entertain a Michigan audience remains to be seen. Reports around the time of the release of the band's latest album mentioned it barely got completed to begin with, and the lyrics on the album, not to mention the album title and the title track, specifically, allude to the possibility that this album and tour may be the last go-around for QOTSA. If, in fact, that is the case, rock fans still have no room to complain. We should be happy we got to experience such an excellent project while it was functioning, much like those who once saw Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd live might happily reminisce.
Queens of the Stone Age set list:
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
No One Knows
My God is the Sun
Burn the Witch
In the Fade
If I Had a Tail
Make it wit Chu
I Sat by the Ocean
Better Living Through Chemistry
Sick Sick Sick
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
I Appear Missing
Song for the Dead