Tuesday, August 9, 2011
GUEST POST: MY FRIEND TOM SAW THE SECRET QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE GIG IN SEATTLE
The first show that Queens of the Stone Age ever played was in downtown Seattle in November of 1997 so it seemed fitting they would perform their debut album in its entirety, for what was supposed to be a “secret show” here in downtown Seattle last Sunday night.
Queens of the Stone Age – Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, backing vocals), Joey Castillo (drums, percussion), Michael Shuman (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar) – took the stage at roughly 9 pm. QOTSA are not from Seattle but Homme certainly has enough of his own history here. Homme became part of the local scene after the dissolution of his former band Kyuss, when he briefly joined Seattle legends Screaming Trees, as their touring guitarist, before forming QOTSA. On stage Homme made sure to pay homage to Trees’ frontman Mark Lanegan (a one-time Queen) and former label boss Stone Gossard. Homme mentioned that the first show QOTSA ever played was nearby at the OK Hotel – a bar/music venue located under the viaduct in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district – Homme laughed that it was one of their worst performances ever. But tonight, the Queens played like heroes, performing the entire album from start to finish. This album was the brainchild of Homme, who wrote all the songs and played guitar and bass guitar to the record, but his band mates (none of whom were in the band at the time) played these songs like they had been performing them for years. It was a real treat, especially if you never got to see Homme and crew in the old days.
The Queens opened with the debut's first track, “Regular John,” a stoney tune with a Kyuss feel, which seemed to have more life than the album’s studio version. The guitars were brighter and more prominent too, compared to the steady mix on the album. I actually had to go back and listen to the album after the show, in order to recall what Homme was doing live on these songs during the live show. You couldn’t tell if the band re-worked any of the songs’ parts because they seemed so fresh and exciting. Josh has become a totally solid live performer and this show was on-par with anything else he has ever done, (including Them Crooked Vultures). The energy level was amazing and the band was having a blast.
Homme’s button down blue dress shirt was soaked with sweat as he continued to play some of the best lead guitar I’ve ever seen and he moved around the stage pushing the audience harder and faster. He was ribbing us in the crowd (good naturedly) and invoking the whole point of rock n roll…"we just want all of you to have a good time." Homme spent equal time facing each band member as they performed instrumental sections of "The Bronze," a bonus track on the re-issue. At one point during “Mexicola,” Homme turned to drummer Joey Castillo who Homme later called “the only Mexican in Seattle,” and Joey started playing amazing drum fills that were different than that of the album version. Joey was an absolute monster on the drums. He didn’t miss a beat all night. Michael Shuman, same thing - he just had head-splitting energy that drives the dynamic range of QOTSA over the top. His harmonies were on point and you were able to see the skills this kid has on the bass guitar. He makes you forget about how great Nick Oliveri was when he was their bass player. Troy Van Leeuwen looked cool because he had a cool pinstripe suit on with a fancy tie to boot. He was rocking... and you know that the rhythm guitarist never gets enough credit. Dean brings in the bits and pieces that put the tunes over the top. Reaching back to tear through some Mark Lanegan tunes all the way to the insane tease of “the polka song.”
You got the feeling Queens of the Stone Age were really excited to play this show not only because they had a chance to play an entire album worth of songs that aren't part of the usual repertoire. The crowd was equally excited to hear live renditions of some of their favorite old school QOTSA songs. After bout an hour they finished playing through the entire first album, so Homme and the band came back out and said they were having a great time and would play anything the crowd wanted for the next 30 minutes. The crowd went nuts and then Homme proceeded to take requests and you just knew that someone was going to request “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” Before going into it, Homme simply said: “let’s get fucked up,” and then the crowd sang along with him the entire song and if they didn’t know the lyrics beforehand, they certainly did by the end of the song.
One of my favorite moments was when Josh told this guy down in front, who was wearing sunglasses, that he wanted to suck his dick “because he was so cool.” Homme also pointed out some girl sitting on top of a guy’s shoulders, who was apparently at the Soundgarden show the previous night at the Gorge Amphitheater where Queens of the Stone Age played third on the bill, as she flashed him and flipped the crowd off when Homme said: “My sister is fuckin’ crazy right?”
In keeping with their reputation, Queens of the Stone Age killed in Seattle last Sunday night. Performing every song from their self-titled debut album made the show extra special, but taking requests from the crowd really made this a classic and unforgettable performance. Their stage presence was attention grabbing and the quality of their live performance – in my opinion – surpasses their studio work. Plus, Josh Homme never fails to make you laugh. This show overall was definitely an over-the-top performance. It made me wish that I had been able to see them when they started out in Seattle to be able to compare. I can’t wait to see them again.