Josh Homme told a capacity audience of 3,000 that “uncomfortable is a way of life” at Crossroads KC on Friday. Although the fans of Homme’s band Queens of the Stone Age who didn’t bring protection for their ears regretted their decision and elbow room at the outdoor venue was at a premium, witnessing the venerable hard rock band playing material from its powerful new album was entirely gratifying.
Formed more than 20 years ago, Queens of the Stone Age is one of the few rock bands with a substantial following that’s managed to remain interesting and vital during a span in which rock has grown increasingly dull and dispensable. The veteran band’s barbaric attack and uncommonly insightful lyrics have kept it several steps ahead of upstart acts like Royal Blood, the British duo that opened the concert with 50 minutes of potent but comparatively routine rock.
The atmosphere at Crossroads KC often resembles a relaxed block party, but extreme volume negated socializing during Queens of the Stone Age’s 100-minute set. Homme, a hulking chain-smoker who towered over his four band mates, embellished the sonic assault with menacing body language. He careened between illuminated decorative poles like a punch-drunk boxer playing rope-a-dope. He recalled that “when I was young I was arrested here” moments before he explained that a minor miscue was the effect of “the tequila at work.”
Homme’s rock and roll lifestyle didn’t hinder his voice. On “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” he masterfully emphasized the line “we move with an urgency between pleasure and agony,” an apt summation of the group’s aesthetic. The selection was one of six songs from the band’s seventh album “Villains,” a project overseen by the pop-oriented producer Mark Ronson.
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The unlikely collaboration resulted in several songs that are instant classics. Thrilling renditions of “The Evil Has Landed” and the ferocious “Domesticated Animals,” a scathing indictment of the herd mentality common on social media, indicate that the compositions are likely to remain in the band’s set lists for years.
Queens of the Stone Age was once known as a stoner-rock band. Fans of the form were mollified with “I Think I Lost My Headache” and the astoundingly heavy “Song of the Dead,” but Queens of the Stone Age also performed dark new wave, feral punk and colorful glam-rock.
In a final entertaining act of juvenile rebellion, Homme clumsily attempted to dismantle the drum kit before stumbling offstage at the conclusion of the encore. He may have named his band Queens of the Stone Age, but Homme was the king of rock and roll on Friday.
Set list: Feet Don't Fail Me; Smooth Sailing; My God Is the Sun; The Evil Has Landed; I Sat By the Ocean; Sick, Sick, Sick; I Think I Lost My Headache; Domesticated Animals; The Way You Used to Do; I Appear Missing; Villains of Circumstance; If I Had a Tail; Little Sister; Head Like a Haunted House; Hanging Tree; Song For the Dead