Thursday, August 15th. Red Rocks Amphitheatre—Morrison, CO.
The sun had sunk, the opening act had come and gone, and the headlining set began with cracking glass. A distorted, sensory ode to the twisted cacophony that lay ahead.
Since frontman Joshua Homme has spent the year evasively touting the varied luminous and graphic effects of the ...Like Clockwork tour, it’s understandable that a person might come to the show with certain expectations. A series of anticipated assumptions really—some warped QOTSA artwork perhaps, weird lighting, new songs and old ones, tight, creative guitar work—we come, we listen, we’re satiated, everybody goes home happy, right? NOPE.
This tour is something else.
It delivers all those things listed above, the grandiose ear drum eviscerating spectacle that any self respecting Queens of the Stone Age fan desires, but there’s an additional component. A darkness. Something different from the shadowy undertones of albums past. Not only were the concert images full of red and black morphing, sinister figures that looked like they might steal your soul at any second, but there was a visceral sensation to the music that raised the hairs on the back of your neck like some kind of creeping poltergeist.
Each song, and each transition came and went with the sort of intensity that results in breathlessness. From If I Had a Tail to Little Sister for example, an ominous message came across the LED screen, and was immediately followed by pitch blackness. Little Sister counted in in the darkness and really got going with a series of colored spotlights. These are not uniquely extraordinary concert tropes (Nine Inch Nails win that one), but coupled with the style and haunting authenticity of Queens of the Stone Age rock ‘n’ roll, it all comes together in a way that is gratifyingly singular. Like the first time you had hotel room sex.
As for the setlist—they cranked out a well rounded mix of songs including: Make It Wit Chu, No One Knows, Go With the Flow, Burn the Witch, Feel Good Hit of the Summer in the encore, and eight of ten tracks from the new album. It was the sort of show you carry around for days post. And as good as the music was, it was all amplified by the excruciatingly stunning backdrop of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The band saw it too, and at one point from their low, crowd/red sandstone facing position on stage Josh said, “We wish you could see what we see.”
Sunday, October 27th. Shoreline Amphitheatre—Bridge School Benefit.
Completely different performance. Entirely similar essence. So similar in fact that they didn’t quite seem to fit in with the CSNY crew. In a good way. It wasn’t the show’s acoustic mandate, that they nailed, it was the QOTSA character that seeped through their instruments, and for some reason seemed a bit unlikely in the same lineup as fun. and Diana Krall. Even without the pickup, they remained true to form.
Both nights their set began after nightfall, and included songs you’ve never imagined acoustically. My God is the Sun and Burn the Witch in particular. They worked, naturally, and the varied style was exciting—an attractive, restrained counterpart to the no-holds-barred nature of the Red Rocks show.
No matter what chu throw at them, the Queens of the Stone Age will deliver, and then some.
QOTSA get at it at 4:08.