Review by B. Patrik
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
As fantastic as last year’s Queens of the Stone Age comeback album …Like Clockwork was (and I’d argue it was the best album of 2013, bar none), it came nowhere close to the exuberance, energy and raw rock ‘n’ roll thrill of the band’s performance Sunday night (July 13) at the Palace Theatre in Albany.
In fact, none of the band’s six studio records can hold a candle to its live show, and that’s saying something. For more than a decade now, QOTSA guitarist, vocalist and mastermind Josh Homme has collaborated on record with some of the best in the business. …Like Clockwork alone featured stellar performances from Foo Fighter and drummer extraordinaire Dave Grohl, former QOTSA and Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor and Elton John.
For nearly two hours the five-piece band slammed away at songs from throughout its career, including a whopping eight of the 10 cuts from …Like Clockwork. And not only was nothing lost in the translation of these songs – in most instances, something was gained.
Take the slinky, almost Stevie Wonder-esque “Smooth Sailing,” for example, which grooved along heavier and nastier than the album cut under the powerful snap of new drummer Jon Theodore’s snare cracks. Or old rager “Avon,” which shone with a new dimension thanks to Dean Fertita’s synthesizer drones. And when …Like Clockwork’s haunting title track slipped into a piano-led version of “In the Fade,” the Lanegan-sung standout from 2000′s Rated R, it was impossible for a longtime fan to not get goosebumps.
Homme and company were on their game right from the opening bars of the ominously sexy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.” This is a band whose membership has changed more times than most bands could survive, with Homme remaining the one constant, but it seems he’s hit on a perfect combination with this group. Rookie Theodore, who came on board just in time to drum on one song on Clockwork, deserves VIP mention for deftly navigating Grohl’s thundering tom rolls on Songs for the Deaf cuts such as “No One Knows” and “Hangin’ Tree.” Nowhere was his power on display more than on encore-ending “A Song for the Dead,” which featured a massive drum solo in addition to the song’s Black Flag-nicked opening volley.
Stand-outs included “I Sat by the Ocean,” with Homme and longtime member Troy Van Leeuwen trading weeping slide guitar licks; “Make it Wit Chu,” featuring Homme’s deadpan croon backed by Van Leeuwen and Fertita’s falsetto choruses; and “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” towards the back of the main set, with Michael Shuman’s growling bass playing off Homme’s chunky riffage.
This was a group effort, to be sure, but it was still Homme’s show. He took most of the guitar solos throughout the night, sticking close to the recorded versions – which admittedly don’t need much updating. His deft fingerwork on Era Vulgaris rager “I’m Designer” was perhaps his finest playing of the evening. And on encore highlight “The Vampyre of Time and Memory,” Homme took to the piano for some of the evening’s most introspective moments.
But that centerpiece performance of “…Like Clockwork” into “In the Fade” took the cake. On the former, Fertita deftly switched from piano on the song’s pensive verses to synthesizer on its slow-burn choruses, with the rest of the band building the song to a fever-pitch. He stuck to piano for “In the Fade,” following Homme’s snaking lead riffs while the rest of the band thundered along underneath. Early in the set, Homme announced that his band was going to “change your life”; with these two songs, they very nearly matched his boast.
Compared to QOTSA, Brody Dalle’s four-piece band was nothing special. However, her energy, coupled with some pretty spectacular drum work, helped elevate the short set and made for an adequate warm-up, at least. It is telling that the band’s best moment came on a cover of the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments,” but Dalle held her own on the expansive “Parties for Prostitutes,” working up to a gut-wrenching scream for the song’s final verse.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
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
I Sat by the Ocean
In the Fade
If I Had a Tail
Make It Wit Chu
Sick, Sick, Sick
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
Monster in the Parasol
A Song for the Dead