Under the brilliant lights of Wrigley Field, fans taking in a Cubs night game witnessed the loveable losers doing what they do best, falling 6-4 to the Dodgers. Meanwhile, a block away from the Friendly Confines, a separate subset of jockish fan piled into the Metro as Queens of the Stone Age played a sold-out pre-Lollapalooza show. The 90-minute desert-rock session that ensued was a sort of warm-up for QOTSA’s festival slot tonight in Grant Park, but the band approached the gig as anything but a rehearsal.
“Is anyone going to Lollapalooza tomorrow?” lead Queen Josh Homme joked a few songs into the set. “I am.” In the same breath, he admitted he was “really high right now, actually.” The admission wasn’t surprising coming from the guy who had just finished leading the chant to “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”—a vintage QOTSA cut from Rated R, the band's 2000 breakthrough—that's simply a laundry list of drugs: “nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol....c-c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!”
Onstage, it seemed Homme derived much of his power and prowess not from any chemical cocktail but from his neck. The thick trunk rooted firmly between his shoulders serves as the base on which the singer-guitarist’s ginger-topped melon bounces and swivels. He’s a crew-cutted bobblehead up there, hammering out metal boogie riffs on a hollow-body that appears strangely undersized in front of his muscular, six-foot-four-inch frame. Achieving a sound that’s as big as he is—even his guitar tone has a percussive whop—the 40-year-old frontman plunged his face toward the mic stand, unleashing a Vedder-esque bellow that often slithered upward into falsetto. For the ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” from the band’s latest album, ...Like Clockwork, Homme sat down at a piano and proficiently picked out chords. Released in June, the record includes a guest appearance from a fellow Friday Lolla performer, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.
Over the years, QOTSA has been a revolving door for musicians, the band as notorious for personnel changes as its pummeling groove. But for this tour at least, Homme has assembled a solid lineup, including a couple of guys he’s been collaborating with since 2007, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Circle) and multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita (Dead Weather, the Raconteurs). Drummer Jon Theodore stepped in to replace longtime QOTSA stick man Joey Castillo, who was fired by Homme during the recording of ...Like Clockwork. As he has in the past, Homme called on his buddy Dave Grohl to get behind the kit and help finish the record. Hopeful whispers that the Foo Fighter might make a special appearance last night proved untrue, but Grohl was not missed; the hard-hitting Theodore, formerly of the Mars Volta, had no trouble holding together the group’s vise-tight rhythms, rapid-fire fills and all.
The sound was crisp, but the venue’s atmosphere was musty, the air thick with sweaty white man aggression and just a touch of Old Spice. The place was packed with an inordinate number of guys who looked like less compelling versions of Homme: tall and well-built former high-school football players. (Yep, Homme was a star on his Palm Desert squad.) On Thursday night, these ex-linebackers were particularly responsive to material from Songs for the Deaf, stuff like "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like A Millionaire” and “Go with the Flow.” That now-11-year-old album could easily have been the soundtrack to their bygone on-the-field triumphs and tribulations. In that case, Lullabies to Paralyze might just be a brutal football joke.
More than maybe any other band, Queens of the Stone Age temporarily erases that persistent line between sporto and metalhead with its trademark brand of cock-rock; at Metro, I spotted a handful of tattooed, brooding bros wearing Cubs hats. Which makes me believe that a shaggy stoner kid at Lolla will inevitably pass a joint to a one-time varsity defensive tackle. At that moment, they will be watching Homme’s neck bulge as he churns out yet another crunchy jock jam.
“Keep Your Eyes Peeled” “You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire” “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” “No One Knows” “My God Is the Sun” “Hangin' Tree” “I Sat by the Ocean” “Burn the Witch” “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” “Long Slow Goodbye” “Kalopsia” “If I Had a Tail” “Little Sister” “Turnin' on the Screw” “Smooth Sailing” “I Think I Lost My Headache” “Go With the Flow” “I Appear Missing”
Encore “…Like Clockwork” “Make It Wit Chu” “A Song for the Dead”