LIVE REVIEW: Queens Of The Stone Age @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney (02/03/11)

written by Chris Familton

Apart from a few diversions on recent albums, Queens Of The Stone Age have been one of the more consistent rock bands of the last 13 years and to celebrate the journey so far the band decided to treat us to a run through of their landmark self-titled debut album. Of course there was the obligatory encore to add a handful of tracks from other parts of their career but hearing a band playing an album that was so fully formed and laid down the template for the sound they would refine and build on over the next decade was glorious thing to behold.

Melbourne’s Calling All Cars had the early evening support slot and set about making a raucous and at times impressive name for themselves. On record they sound like a run of the mill, angsty alt-rock band pushing for radio-play but don’t dismiss them entirely (unless that is your thing) as they take their sound up a notch with a heavier and more aggressive live sound. They have a touch of Shihad about them in the way they build riffs over a reliable and simple rhythms and in fact Shihad’s Tom Larkin manages and produces them. Frontman Haydn Ing knows all the right rock moves which do tend to drag them into cliche territory – not helped by some vacuous lyrics. They did the job well though, softening the eardrums of the swelling crowd and getting them in the mood to rock.

QOTSA strode onstage amid a set draped in curtained archways with sketches and diagrams of Kennedy’s assassination. I’m not sure of the connection to their first album, if any, but it looked great, making the stage look like some burnt out basement or catacomb. Of course the set list was no surprise with the familiar chords of Regular John building the tension before drummer/beast Joey Castillo flicked the switch and the crowd started to bounce. It is one of the most Kyuss-sounding of their early songs so it was fitting opening track, bridging the gap between that legendary band and Josh Homme’s leap forward.

Avon tumbled with precision while the soaring ‘doo doo doos’ soared above the twisting and chopping guitars. It was the first sign of Homme’s songs taking on stronger melodic tendencies and allowing his songs to swing hips instead of just nodding heads. If Only was a glorious glam boogie while that long repeating outro to Walkin’ On The Sidewalks was so relentlessly brutal it was almost a disappointment when it ended.

Homme seemed to be in fine spirits – quite literally in fact – as he swigged on a bottle of vodka before handing it to the front row to finish off. There were playful half smiles between band members – especially Homme and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen – and the frontman wasn’t afraid to shake and shimmy like some curious blend of Chuck Berry and Prince while peeling off those trademark riffs and solos. He was having so much fun that at one point he even threatened to finish his vodka by doing a handstand and sticking the bottle up his arse.

The added surprise to the first album run through was the addition of soaring b-side The Bronze before they returned to the job at hand. Mexicola was a brilliant mix of bullish metallic riffing and Homme’s distinct vocal making it one of the heaviest and most satisfying moments of the night. The instrumental Hispanic Impressions sounded very Them Crooked Vultures while a switch around with the last two tracks of the album meant a more rocking ending with Give The Mule What He Wants.

With the crowd still high on adrenalin and baying for an encore QOTSA returned to hit us with a 4 song finale that included the deep and sexy croon of Make It Wit Chu from Era Vulgaris and a blistering version of Rated X’s Little Sister that brought the biggest cheer of the night. Finishing with Go With The Flow they knew how to end on a high, embracing the mantra ‘always leave the crowd wanting more’. The Enmore audience were nothing if not persistent in their demands for a 2nd encore with virtually no-one leaving for 20 minutes, hoping that Homme would decide on a few more songs before he got to his next vodka bottle. Alas it wasn’t to be and it didn’t really matter as QOTSA had just delivered one of the most uplifting, sexy and exhilarating rock shows that we’ll see this year.

this review first appeared on FasterLouder


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