Not much about a Queens of the Stone Age show is regal, but plenty is neolithic. And nihilistic.
Tuesday night, Josh Homme and his four bandmates bludgeoned a crowd of nearly 4,000 fans at Starlight with more than 100 minutes of heavy, primal and punishing guitar rock, an assault that subsided only when Homme paused to politely thank his fans or quell the mayhem that had erupted in the front rows.
QOTSA are touring off “ ... Like Clockwork,” released nine months ago, and the setlist featured seven of its tracks. But they opened with something older: “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire” and then “”No One Knows,” both from the stellar “Songs for the Deaf” album — an apt theme for the evening: All night, they played as if everyone might be a little hard of hearing.
From there, they launched into a series of high-volume and high-energy guitar brawls between Homme and Troy Van Leeuwen. But within all their fury, there was a rhythm and a melody to latch on to, as in “Burn the Witch,” which sways to a grimy-blues groove. Homme has a distinct and diverse voice. It’s deceptively agile and powerful (and it needs to be) and capable of slipping into a falsetto when called for. He can also broker the peace when necessary. Twice he stopped in the middle of the song to referee an outburst in the front rows. The first time, during “I Sat By The Ocean,” he got a little John Lennon/make-love-not-war on a couple of security personnel, instructing them to let fans “do what they want.” Two songs later, he halted “Like Clockwork” to stop a fight that had erupted directly in front of him, warning one of the combatants to stop and stay put: “If you get up on stage I’m gonna kick your head off your shoulders.”
From there he ordered more cowbell from drummer Jon Theodore and the band launched into one of the evening’s highlights: a furious rendition of “Little Sister.” There were other standouts: the funky, “Make it Wit Chu,” one of a couple songs built around a keyboard riff; “Go With the Flow,” which detonated into a prolonged, annihilating wave of noise —chaos with choreography; “Sick, Sick, Sick,” the soundtrack to a deranged jailbreak; and, during the encore, the jackhammer anthem “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.” During that one, Homme orchestrated a loud, joyous sing-along to the chorus —“Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol, cocaine.” He again was enforcing the rules of a QOTSA show: Make love, not war. And bestow lots of brutal noise and heavy, primal grooves.
A large minority of the crowd was there to see Les Claypool’s venerable trio deliver a one-hour set of its subversive take on jam rock. Performing between two large, inflated characters in spacesuits (in a Buzz Lightyear way) and before a screen that delivered lots of animation and other visual distractions, Primus gave the early birds plenty to indulge in, including favorites like “Southbound Pachyderm,” “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver” and even a short blast of the “South Park” theme, embedded in “Over the Falls.”
Queens of the Stone Age: 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; Smooth Sailing; The Fun Machine ...; I Sat By The Ocean; If I Had a Tail; Like Clockwork; Little Sister; Fairweather Friends; Make It Wit Chu; Sick, Sick, Sick; 3s and 7s; Better Living Through Chemistry; Go With the Flow. Encore: The Vampyre of Time and Memory; Feel Good Hit of the Summer; A Song for the Dead.
Primus: Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers; Last Salmon Man; Southbound Pachyderm; Over the Falls (with a snippet of South Park Theme); Lee Van Cleef; My Name is Mud; Jerry Was a Race Car Driver; Jilly’s on Smack; Harold of the Rocks.