Queens of the Stone Age closed their first North American tour since 2018 on Saturday night (Dec. 16) as if they’d never been away. During a 20-song set at the hometown Kia Forum, the Los Angeles hard rock band unfurled songs from throughout its career, delivered in as rowdy a mood as anyone could hope for. Josh Homme and Troy Van Leeuwen wrestled their guitars seemingly to the death, stomping and gliding across the stage and flinging their instruments sideways and back. “It’s Saturday night. Don’t be shy now. It’s just us — you’re friends and family,” Homme said in one of many affectionate comments to fans.
Earlier this year, the band released In Times New Roman…, the first album to emerge following the end of Homme’s marriage and a painfully public custody battle for his kids. Maybe not surprisingly, it also marked a return to the harder edge of the band’s sound, following the more playful Villains in 2017. Hard times had once before led him to some of his most profound work when he emerged from a serious health crisis to create the deeply felt, almost philosophical …Like Clockwork in 2013.
On Saturday, the band was loud and aggressive, and Homme couldn’t have been more relaxed between songs. At one point he announced, “This is our last show ever,” to confused silence, then added, “this year.” Even the band members around him might have been caught off-guard by that moment.
“Time & Place” (from In Times New Roman…) was heavy with layers of noise along the edges, but also moved with a playful swing, as Homme sang of a moment of confrontation: “You got a lotta nerve coming ’round this place / If you’re a pretty boy, you’ve got to save face.” Bassist Michael Shuman kicked the air as the trio of guitarists drilled down on the riff into a tumbling wall of sound.
Homme called the crowd “a handsome bunch,” while pushing back his red hair, then began “The Way You Used to Do,” from the danceable Villains, produced by pop/rock hitmaker Mark Ronson. Except that at the Forum, the song was sweatier, drummer Jon Theodore’s beats were harder and Homme sang passionately like it was showtime at the Apollo.
On “Paper Machete,” a jagged Van Leeuwen solo threatened to fly apart, as Homme and Dean Fertita drove the main riff underneath. For the woozy “Make It Wit Chu,”Fertita banged out the rolling piano intro, as Homme encouraged the crowd to freely sit on each other’s shoulders. “You bought the ticket,” he said, “do what you want.” He also stepped back to allow fans to sing the falsetto chorus, playfully pointing to one fan and declaring, “I’m in room 225, by the way.”
For the encore, things only got heavier, beginning with “Regular John,” from QOTSA’s 1998 self-titled debut album, which teetered into spasms of noise and melody. The intensity of feeling seemed fitting as Homme noted the recent losses of three close friends: Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, actor Rio Hackford and singer Mark Lanegan, the latter the leader of the Screaming Trees and sometime QOTSA member. The night ended with an intense tune Lanegan used to sing with the band, 2002’s “A Song for the Dead.” Homme leaned into the mic and raged, “Come on, let’s take a little ride / That’s the study of dyin’ / How to do it right,” then closed with a storm of feedback to send fans home.
Support act Spiritualized began their eight-song set on a euphoric note with the anxious psychedelic swirl of “Hey Jane,” a nine-minute epic from 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light. As ever, leader Jason Pierce kept the lights down low and sat like John Lee Hooker on stage left with his guitar and music stand, singing with the help of two backup singers in white lab coats. Pierce – AKA J Spaceman – sat across the stage from his band, tapping his effects pedals with silver sneakers. The sound was mysterious and timeless, leaning into the future with a debt to the acid rock past on “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)” and “Shine a Light.” While very different from QOTSA, Spiritualized was by itself worth the price of admission.
Before the concert, QOTSA set up an outdoor carnival around the arena called the Queens Colosseum, offering games, tattoos, tarot readings, snapshots with a black metal Santa, a record store and more. There was a small stage for local bands, including the danceable, mostly female hard rock of DeathbyRomy, bringing new sounds to fans ready to begin a full night of wild, muscular rock.
Queens of the Stone Age’s Kia Forum setlist:
No One Knows
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
My God Is the Sun
I Sat by the Ocean
Time & Place
Burn the Witch
The Way You Used to Do
Villains of Circumstance
Better Living Through Chemistry
Sick, Sick, Sick
Make It Wit Chu
God Is in the Radio
Go With the Flow
A Song for the Dead