Concert review: Queens of the Stone Age’s profound, uncomfortable rock show

Queens of the Stone Age, performing February 13 inside the Joint.
Photo: Spencer Burton

Three and a half stars

Queens of the Stone Age February 13, the Joint

About halfway through Queens of the Stone Age’s sweaty two-hour set at the Joint Thursday night, frontman Josh Homme asked the crowd to applaud for drummer Jon Theodore. He was, after all, playing the gig with a 102 degree fever.

That Theodore (formerly of The Mars Volta) was able to sit up was something of a miracle, never mind the fact that his visceral pounding at the kit drove the set with a kind of manic discipline. Then again, the surreal intensity and carnal weirdness of QOTSA’s music lends itself well to fever dreams.

Josh Homme

Josh Homme

The band is no stranger to pushing the body’s limits. Last year’s acclaimed ...Like Clockwork came in the wake of a routine surgery gone horribly wrong for Homme, during which he briefly died on the table and spent the ensuing months in bedridden recovery. The record draws heavily on the experience, introducing new themes of mortality and vulnerability to QOTSA’s legacy of unorthodox, id-fueled rock ’n’ roll.

While their ruthless live execution of that spirit has been central to the band’s success in the past, new songs like “Kalopsia” and “...Like Clockwork” added a weight and contrast to the performance that elevated it from being a solid, high-energy rock show to something more uncomfortable and profound.

“I'm alive, hooray,” Homme deadpanned, alone at a piano during the slow-burning ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” “You're wrong again ’cause I feel no love/Does anyone ever get this right?” he begged, as the lights dimmed and a distorted flock of crows washed over the screen behind him.

Existential laments aside, however, QOTSA is still about muscle. The first five songs—“You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar,” “No One Knows,” “Avon,” “My God Is the Sun” and “Burn the Witch”—were a delightfully aggressive slap in the face to open the set.

More than a decade in, QOTSA is in its prime as a live act, delivering songs that manage to be at once unhinged and precise, the rhythm section pummeling forward while Homme alternates between wailing into the mic and lacerating his guitar.

Songs of death and loss were met with just as many odes to seduction and excess, and slinking numbers like “If I Had a Tail” and “Make It Wit Chu” elicited more than a few shrieks and dance moves from audience members.

Whether contemplating fate, celebrating the bizarre or reveling in decadence, QOTSA leaves little fat to trim—which is why, after two hours of existential highs and lows, you’re left feeling neither exhausted nor satisfied, but simply alive.

Photo of Andrea Domanick

Andrea Domanick

Get more Andrea Domanick
  • The Las Vegas debut of the Ohio-bred indie band was filled with dynamic arrangements, entertaining anecdotes—and, surprisingly, lots of attendees.

  • At this point, the only constant from album to album is the band’s dedication to ambition.

  • Bassist Nate Brenner partners with leader Merrill Garbus for an approachable and dancey record.

  • Get More Music Stories
Top of Story