It was no surprise that the Queens Of The Stone Age (QOTSA) sold out its first tour in many years. They left fans wanting more after their Era Vulgaris tour, and Josh Homme teased us with his super-group Them Crooked Vultures, which was also economically viable to the point where his cohorts in the band (Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Led Zepplin bassist/keyboardist/arranger John Paul Jones) want to keep the band productive.
But perhaps it was (according to Rolling Stone) Homme’s recent death scare that made people sell out this tour AND FAST! You see, if you follow QOTSA, you know that Homme has had trouble with his knee and an emphysema-like illness since the Over The Years and Through The Woods era. For those of you not familiar with this incident, please read on…
Recently, while doctors were operating on Homme’s knee to repair long-term damage, they had trouble maintaining oxygen levels in his blood and Homme nearly died. Fortunately, they were able to pull Homme back from the brink of death via defibrillation.
Yup, we were that close to losing him.
We will get to Homme after some “business”.
The opening act was named the Dough Rollers. None of the members were fat, but they weren’t talented either. A website had advertised that the Dough Rollers were a band consisting of a female vocalist/violinist, a mandolin player and a guitar player. They weren’t. All they were, was a traditional four-piece, two guitar band. We saw what they were supposed to be, and we tried to miss them. We were unsuccessful. They played for a little less than forty minutes. THANKFULLY!
Dough Rollers were not tight, when the guitarist tried to tune down to drop D, he didn’t have any locking mechanisms on his guitar, and he immediately went out of tune for that song. I mean, besides having a high hat, the drummer had only one cymbal. How cut-rate can these guys be? I’ll spare you the details of their Stray Cats wanna-be music style. Pompadours, sharkskin suits and leopard skin guitar straps do not a quality band make.
But they did their job, they just made QOTSA look better when they did take the stage.
After a very brief intermission to remove what little equipment Dough Rollers had, QOTSA came out. The biggest shock was Homme’s weight! I guess having to recuperate after the surgery made him less ambulatory/active.
If anything, the weight was good for Homme’s vocals as he was in great voice.
They came out and launched into “Regular John” for their first tune, as it is the first track on their first album Queens Of The Stone Age (re-release), with bombastic accuracy. Homme’s label Rekords Rekords, now owns the rights to all the songs, released and unreleased. So Homme decided to re-release the album as he intended it. The playing orders are different. They played the re-release version live.
Tunes like “You Can’t Quit Me, Baby” and “Avon” came to life with vim and vigor. Even the humorous “I Was A Teenage Hand Model” was done with both surprising accuracy and live interpretive explorations.
As I alluded to before, Homme, while out-of-shape, was in excellent voice. The original release of the album was recorded by (mostly) Homme and then-drummer Alfredo Hernandez. “…Teenage Hand Model” (the album version) included the phone call made by Nick Oliveri telling Homme that he is accepting Homme’s proposal to join QOTSA. While pictured on the back of the album, Oliveri does NOT appear on the first record.
After the much-heralded falling out between the two, it was no surprise that any non-first album tracks that were played during the show were culled from albums that did not have Oliveri’s participation. The only exception to that being “No One Knows” from the albumSongs For The Deaf (“you can’t even hear them!”).
Homme had a full band for this show. Along with long-time members Troy Van Leeuwen and Joey Catstillio (as Homme called him, “The only Mexican in New York City”), there was new bassist Mikey Schulman and multi-instrumentalist Dean Ferita. Homme chided Van Leeuwen and Ferita for being too well dressed for his liking, and announced that since Schulman was the youngest, and the Jewish member, he was buying drinks for everybody. Schulman responded in true Jewish fashion (I can say that, my best-thing-to-ever-happen-to-me is half Jewish, I have her permission) “Do I have to?”
The overall sound of the show was slightly louder than a 3,000 person capacity club should have been. Homme’s vocals got buried from time-to-time. But here is the unique perspective about this album and these shows. Homme had done some vocals with Kyuss, and he really didn’t find his singing voice until around the time of R. So for him to perform these songs with his honed vocal ability was icing on the cake. If only the rasta-hippie-burnout at the board wasn’t so busy grooving to the music behind the mixing booth at Terminal 5 (which had a unique fragrance, by the way, half cocaine, half semen) he would have realized the low-end was distorting and Homme’s vocals were being lost in the sauce.
Only two minor technical glitches happened during the show, Castillo flung a stick and Homme broke a string. Castillo was able to grab a new stick without too much of the beat being fractured and when Homme handed off his guitar to the roadie and got another one, it was done during a verse so Ferita and Van Leeuwen filled in to the point where it sounded like a break for dynamic.
Between switching back and forth between guitars that were tuned to drop C (QOTSA’s signature sound) and standard E, and several different percussion accessories being affixed to Castillo’s bass drum, Homme was both cordial and antagonistic to his audience. Berating those throwing him the finger by saying “Oh sure, you do that while you are in the audience, but if you were up here you would be doing this” and begins to pantomime fellatio. He also addresses the residences of New York by saying they are spoiled because they have everything. They have it all in this one town. But he excuses his boorish comments by saying he’s from the dessert, he doesn’t know jack. In fact, he further excuses his comments by announcing that he has a mullet! (It looked more like a rat-tail…)
Overall, this was one of the better QOTSA shows I have had the good fortune to attend. I would recommend it but the whole tour has sold out. I attribute that to a long-time absence, Homme’s recent healthcare issue (here’s an odd sight, they had trouble re-oxygenating his blood, so what does Homme do? Lights up a cigarette onstage, which, he commented, was against the law; “I’m breaking my first law right here, yeah, my first law broken…”) and the promise of the performance of the first album.
Speaking of breaking laws, by the time QOTSA took the stage, the smell had been replaced with the reek of marijuana.
There are some anchor QOTSA tunes on this album, I mentioned a couple, more were added, some were subtracted, my iPod has the original first album in it’s order, with several bonus tracks obtained through various sites, split albums with Kyuss, EPs, downloads, and those bonus tracks have been ingrained in me through live performances and being so familiar with them that when they were integrated into the songlist, I was used to them. I play many of them in my solo show (to the point where I had to go out and buy a specific acoustic to assign it a drop C tuning).
That being said, perhaps I am less objective. But I have enough bootleg videos, concerts, downloads, etc., I have heard enough sub-standard versions to know, there were no substandard versions at the Terminal 5 show. This band was well rehearsed, and in fact, the newer material was a tad sloppier than the older material. At least “Turnin’ On The Screw” was a bit shaky at spots, but by the time the double string slides in opposite directions came around, they were in sync.
So impressive was the band that my best-thing-to-ever-happen-to-me overheard a female security guard mention to one of her contemporaries “I never heard of these guys, but I really like them”. Now here’s a person who was impressed by a loud live show…
Imagine if she gets some of these albums? A new fan is born every minute, and with performances like this one, QOTSA’S fan-base will only get bigger.
We’ll be able to say we knew them when…
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