HOT PRESS LIVE REVIEW: QOTSA IN BELFAST

2 10 2014

I’ve always had a strained relationship with Queens Of The Stone Age. I suppose it stretches back to around this time ten years ago. At that point in my life I had been a fan of head Queen Josh Homme for around a decade. Myself and my brother adored his first (and best) band Kyuss after discovering them via 2fm’s infamous Metal Show. When the band imploded, I was one of “those people” who hastily went out and ordered QOTSA’s split release and from there, although I was initially a little wigged out at Homme’s high-pitched vocals, I loved those first two albums. In fact I was such a fan that I even knew how to correctly pronounce his surname (“Mommy” only with an “H” instead of “M,” kids).

Like most things in life though, my affection for the band waned after a time. Yes, that show with Homme, Oliveri, Langegan et al in Dublin’s Ambassador (circa 2002) was incredible. After that though, things seemed to sour. Mark Lanegan left, Nick was fired and a project that only ever intended to release three records (according to Homme himself) began to tread water and churn out sub-standard shite.

I kept the faith though. At least initially. I’ll admit being offered interviews with Homme (during the middle part of the 2000’s) only for them to be switched to one of his lieutenants at the eleventh hour did grate. Especially when during one of those phoners I was told “Josh has lost his voice and can’t speak to you,” but I could clearly hear him loudly talking for 30minutes in the background while his guitarist Troy whispered two and three word answers to my questions. At that point, our plan was to make Queens and the then burgeoning stoner rock scene as a whole the cover of Alternative Ulster. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out and some nonsense on (the not very alternative) U2 went on page one instead. But that’s a tale for another time.

Over the intervening years, more average albums were inflicted on me and I witnessed a slew of less than stellar QOTSA shows. Then Homme decided to sue his old Kyuss band-mates for playing gigs as Kyuss Lives. An unforgivable act, in my book. Especially as there were plenty of us who never got to see John Garcia, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork all onstage together the first time around.

Ever the optimist though, I did have a thimble’s-worth of hope that Homme could reach past heights again. That too drained away after watching QOTSA bore the assembled masses in Belfast’s Odyssey last year though. As I stood waiting for my friend, I saw a gentleman clad in cream chinos, a tucked in shirt and a jumper casually knotted around his neck bop up and down to (the fairly) new song ‘Smooth Sailing.’ He noticed me out of the corner of his eye, no doubt scowling away (my default setting) and-I shit you not-whipped out his air guitar and started beckoning me over to him and his Rugger mates with the arm of his make-believe instrument. It was at that moment I decided that I really needed to stick a fork in it. Queens Of The Stone Age had become the favourite rock band for a generation of people who knew fuck all about the genre. It’s not me, Queens-it’s you.

Which leads me to this post, re-publishing a review I wrote of QOTSA in Belfast during the summer that ran in Hot Press. I’ll be honest, I pitched to review the show purely for the presence of Brody Dalle (I adored the Distillers) and fully expected another flaccid affair from Homme and co. While I wasn’t completely eating my words by the gig’s climax, it was definitely the first QOTSA show I’d enjoyed in years and left me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they might have a surprise or two left up their sleeves. And it’s the hope that gets you, folks…

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

BELSONIC, BELFAST

Zane hiking around the house

Ok, full disclosure. I’ve felt that ever since Nick “Rex Everything” Oliveri and Mark Lanegan departed a decade ago, it’s been a series of diminishing returns for desert rockers Queens Of The Stone Age. However, while bloated albums like Era Vulgaris have disappointed way more than delighted, I’ve always desperately hoped that Josh Homme and Co. would prove me wrong. Simply put-he’s one of the founding members of the seminal Kyuss, he has more than earned a second chance.

After being warmed up with a storming set from leather-lunged punk Brody Dalle that features some absolute gems from her Distillers days (‘Sick Of It All,’ ‘Die On A Rope’), it was time for Queens to show us their riffs. Opening with the menacing ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire,’ the track is a thrillingly thuggish experience live. Break-through single ‘No-One Knows’ keeps the excitement levels up to 11 and ‘My God Is The Sun’ and ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ ensure we’re off to a neck-bothering start.

Sounding brash, ballsy and occasionally utterly brilliant, QOTSA excel in an open air venue and tonight they more than make up for that awful Belfast, Odyssey gig nine months ago which felt more like a wake than a rock show. There are still a few wobbles tonight though. Newie ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ and ‘I’m A Designer’ are dreary efforts and there is nothing from their self-titled first (and best) album in the set, but there are encouraging signs that Homme isn’t merely going through the motions and is still a punk at heart.

He berates the heavy handed bouncers, slags off the “free-loaders” in the nearby apartment blocks and in ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ he has a true rock anthem that will never age. Finishing with ‘A Song For The Dead,’ QOTSA’s third ever Belfast show feels more like a triumph than a failure overall and this old school Kyuss and Queens fan left feeling hopeful for their future for the first time in years.

EDWIN McFEE

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