Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age rip apart Nashville with rowdy rock and roll

Hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age have not only been the beneficiaries of a major resurgence, but can also lay claim to one of the best stories of the year. After becoming one of the world's most esteemed rock bands following the release of Rated R and Songs for Deaf in the early 2000s, Queens began to lose members and lose steam in the middle part of the decade. After going on hiatus in 2009, it didn't seem they would ever reach their previous heights again. That all changed with the release of their latest album, ...Like Clockwork, in which they further redefined their sound and challenged the parameters they operate within. The latest chapter of that resurgence was penned Monday night at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium, where they turned the arena upside down with a raucous and rollicking rock and roll performance.

One of the most exciting aspects about the current Queens of the Stone Age show is the diversity of material they have to work with, which has grown by leaps and bounds since the band's heyday. Throughout the 2000s, Queens stuck solidly to their hard rock roots and were doing it better than almost anyone else, but they weren't doing much else besides that. The release of ...Like Clockwork and, to a lesser extent, its 2007 predecessor Era Vulgaris, changed that.

Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme breaks out smooth moves.

They got most of their heavy songs and staples out of the way early, giving them plenty of time to focus on the new album. In total, they played nine out of 10 cuts from ...Like Clockwork. Established crowd pleasers "No One Knows" and "Burn the Witch" offered great sing along moments, while "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" barreled the audience over with sheer intensity. As the set progressed the guys worked in some softer numbers, including a version of "...Like Clockwork," that was much crunchier and guitar driven than the album version, and "Make It Wit Chu," on which singer Josh Homme lit up a cigarette and puffed a few smoke clouds in between verses.

The main crux of what Queens of the Stone Age do is heavily dependent on their rhythm section. Creative, well thought out beats and bass work do a great deal to separate them from your average rock band. Bassist Michael Shuman is a great performer and showman in his own right, and his dexterous playing is a key part of Queen of the Stone Age's sound. The drum and guitar work isn't always the most complex or technical, but the playing possesses a great amount of character. Much of that has to do with super slick frontman Josh Homme, who is equally impressive with his voice and his guitar. His distinctive, upper register singing voice delivers melodic lines that are simple to sing along with but also magnetizing and infectious, and he helps his cause by laying down sweet guitar leads here and there that are every bit as slick. 

London post punk act Savages slayed Nashville's Municipal Auditorium with a steely determination and sharp resolve.

He introduced demented, funky groover Smooth Sailing by declaring, "I want to play you the funk song they play on the way to hell." The performance had the whole joint grooving, while Homme broke out some silly but fun stage moves. "Sick Sick Sick" was the prime headbanger of the night, while "Better Living Through Chemistry" introduced extended jam elements into the set.

But also awesome were opening act Savages, all female post punk revivalists and labelmates to Queens of the Stone Age. In most cases the opener does little more than warm the seat for the main act, but Savages' debut album, Silence Yourself, is legitimately among 2013's best and have done a pinch of headline touring themselves. Their 40 minute set was sharp and tightly focused, boldly seizing the crowd's attention and refusing to let go.

There is always a subtle undercurrent of tension running underneath the music that threatens to burst forth like a tidal wave. Their aesthetic is totally different from Queens of the Stone Age, but one important similarity is that both bands have killer bassists. Ayse Hassan was a fountain of propulsive bass playing on this night, while guitarist Gemma Thompson alternated between subtle melodic leads and jagged, hair raising rock riffs.. Bits of singer Jehnny Beth's act were reminiscent of performance art or even slam poetry, half speaking half singing lines that served as a segue from one song to the next. 

Josh Homme ran through a gamut of different styles, sounds and approaches, alongside bassist Michael Shuman.
Related post:

Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork album review 

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