Queens of the Stone Age
With Chelsea Wolfe
Fillmore Miami Beach
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Better Than: Those sad years when Queens of the Stone Age stopped being a band, the Dwarves gig at Churchill's a few years back, and any recent Kyuss reboot.
It's been 11 years since Queens of the Stone Age last performed in South Florida. In that intervening decade-plus, frontman and figurehead Josh Homme and his perpetually evolving lineup of collaborators have gone from a period of dormancy (that many presumed to mark the band's end) to a level of acclaim that we believe signals its arrival as the most important rock 'n' roll band of its generation.
Riding in on a wall of sputtering feedback, thunderclap drums, and machismo-drenched croons, Homme and crew made their triumphant return to South Florida last night, destroying the Fillmore Miami Beach with a ringing affirmation that -- despite popular opinion -- Miami is absolutely a rock 'n' roll town, and Queens of the Stone Age is a damn near infallible force of nature.
The show was opened by dark texturalist Chelsea Wolfe. Though Wolfe's appearance didn't receive much pre-concert press in these parts, her performance proved to be a powerful and entirely engrossing experience that won over a rather obnoxious early crowd.
Fuzzy bass and distressed synths rumbled through the venue's lush halls as cylinders of purple light searched the stage tirelessly.
The band's atmospheric sound and experimental din was unified by Wolfe's voice, whose delicate dispatches and massive cries sliced through walls of reverb, lacing the often atonal whir with lush melodies.
Challenging, cinematic, altogether beautiful, the set made it easy to see why a band like Queens of the Stone Age -- no strangers to dissonance and feedback -- brought Wolfe on tour (not to mention the fact that Queens collaborator and confidant, Mark Lanegan, covered one of her tracks on his last album).
So strong was Wolfe's performance that the crowd, initially too overcome by excitement and alcohol to pay attention, was clearly rapt by the time that the final notes of "We Hit a Wall" arrived.
The set ended in a cacophony of harsh noise and roving white light that would have been just as at home at Churchill's International Noise Conference.
As Queens of the Stone Age took the stage, a set designed to look like a 50-foot tall film negative counted down and flashed grainy video images.
The crowd shouted out the numbers appearing on the screen until the pulsing fuzz guitar of "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" transformed the gathering of (moderately) civilized people into a ball of directionless energy.
"No One Knows" followed the opener, "Millionaire," and brought the full force of a now warmed-up Queens of the Stone Age to bear upon the capacity crowd.
The song's churning, rollicking bridge brought the crowd to a boil as Homme and company dug even deeper into their element, seeking magic as they carefully pieced together the deceptively complex mayhem of these now-classic bangers.
The band's recent successes were highlighted by the crowd's reaction to "My God Is the Sun," the first single off the band's Grammy nominated ...Like Clockwork, which was welcomed by the same surge of energy generated by beloved Songs for the Deaf tracks.
The set was an absolute bacchanal of guitar-laden rock 'n' roll perfection. Each song yielded its own feverish moments of distorted, sputtering, screaming guitar histrionics, but Homme's squalling revision of Billy Gibbons' "Burn the Witch" guitar solo was perhaps the string-instrument highlight of the night.
While also pulling incendiary bombers from deep within its catalog, the group still relished showing off the new material, which exudes a maturity not previously seen in Queens' work. Of course, with that maturity comes the challenge of making newer songs built around somber piano and syrupy tempos ("...Like Clockwork," "The Vampyre of Time and Memory") match the intensity of older songs' ungoverned rock 'n' roll madness.
Fortunately, the band gave wholly dynamic performances of its most recent tracks, which only helped to further build tension and frame a band that has grown from its roots as reckless heroes of stoner-rock to fully fledged keepers of the rock 'n' roll spirit for the millennial generation.
"...Like Clockwork" began with jack-of-all-trades, Dean Fertita, seemingly alone beneath a spotlight and gently working piano keys until Josh Homme reappeared, a face obscured only by the smoke that slowly rose from a freshly lit cigarette, the portrait of an artist surely still coming to grips with the unprecedented amount of introspection present in the new record's material.
Homme's current crew, featuring longtime guitar foil Troy Van Leeuwen (and his awesome doubleneck Fender guitar), bassist Mike Shuman, the aforementioned Dean Fertita, and new drummer, Jon Theodore (formerly of Mars Volta fame), brought everything one would expect of this band.
Everything played last night was in its right place, but without ever losing the immediacy and edge that's always defined Queens of the Stone Age.
Homme acknowledged how great the Miami crowd was several times, genuinely surprised by the reaction and saying "We need to come here more often! You guys are drunk and crazy and ready for anything!" and "We had no idea what you would be and we're so thankful that you're you!"
The night ended with a massive guitar battle between Homme and Van Leeuwen during an extended version of "Song for the Dead," which saw the two revel in the trading of riffs, with each bent note or squeaking harmonic a wink or nod to the other. An actual perfect show if there ever was.
Personal Bias: You may count me among the fans.
Queens of the Stone Age's Setlist:
-"You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire"
-"No One Knows"
-"My God is the Sun"
-"Burn the Witch"
-"Turnin' on the Screw"
-"If I Had a Tail"
-"In the Fade"
-"I Sat by the Ocean"
-"Make it Wit Chu"
-"I Appear Missing"
-"Sick, Sick, Sick"
-"Go With the Flow"
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-"The Vampyre of Time and Memory"
-"Feel Good Hit of the Summer"
-"Song for the Dead"