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Queens of the Stone Age ‘Strike’ Up the Band

BURNABY: A last-minute venue change doesn't rattle these Queens' cages.

It’s rare that a band has to move a show last minute, but an ongoing city worker’s strike in Vancouver proper forced Queens of the Stone Age to pack the party to the suburbs (known ’round these parts as Burnaby) and from the hallowed Orpheum Theatre to…a hockey arena Saturday evening (Sept. 1). Subtle shift it was not — the former venue had patrons taking to assigned seats in a retired opera hall, whereas the latter’s a free-for-all in a place that hosts…dudes fighting on ice. The crowd didn’t mind; they celebrated the arrival of QOTSA by removing their shirts (if they were male, as the bulk of the audience was) and slamming five beers in the parking lot before rushing the floor.

Openers Cage the Elephant played a loud, fast fuzzy set to a mostly empty room before a black-clad Homme and crew took the stage. Homme acknowledged the venue change, asserting that “Strikes are hard,” and offering support for workers on the line before launching into a set that burned through songs from 2000’s Rated R right on down to this year’s Era Vulgaris.

Of particular interest to the writhing, testosterone-fueled crowd (shirtless man count = nine) were older, dirty favorites such as “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” and “No One Knows” along with new contenders like “Sick, Sick, Sick.” For their part, the sparse ladies didn’t start grooving until “Wanna Make It Witchu,” an Era track that Homme resurrected from one of his famous Desert Sessions recordings. As the band picked up the pace (shirtless man count = dozens), bewildered security guards struggled to control the legions of fans throwing themselves out of the stands to the floor (stretcher count = six). A grinning Homme — inasmuch as Homme can grin — declared that his band had found a home away from home. “You look great, Vancouver” he offered before Era’s “3’s & 7’s.” Later, when a security guard put a band-aid on a kid who’d crowdsurfed to the front of the stage, he positively swooned: “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a while,” Homme offered to the room of sweaty, drunk ‘burb kids. “Vancouver is a city of love.”

We asked: If you could be Queen of any age, what age would it be and why?