I think I might’ve just broken up with Queens of the Stone Age.
How did this happen?
I’ve been seeing Queens since 2000, when Rated R came out. It was mindblowing—heavy, hypnotic, massive. Like Radiohead, without the English pretense. Prog rock that could kick your ass. Love at first listen. We’ve had some great memories: a roadtrip to Chicago and Milwaukee to see each other in the autumn of 2000, a sweaty couple of hours in the summer of ’02 at the 400 Bar (Dave Grohl on drums), another great show at the Quest. I mean, the Quest. Ha. It didn’t really matter where we were.
But lately, it’s been a mess. First, in 2004, lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme fired original Queens bassist Nick Olivieri, whom I loved. Then Homme started moonlighting as the drummer for Eagles of Death Metal, whom I hated. Still, last night, three songs into the Queens show at First Avenue, things felt just like old times. “I feel great tonight,” Homme said from the stage. A lean six-feet-five-inches, dressed in black, with that sneer and that swagger, and those gigantic hands . . . he still looks like the star quarterback who quit the team to play guitar. The band ripped through “Regular John,” off its first record. There was a new bassplayer, drummer, and keyboardist, but they still had that mathematic Queens synchronicity to go with all that power. And as a lead guitarist and James Brown-esque bandleader/conductor, Homme is still the master of alternating sustain/silence.
But then it started to feel weird.
A pointless, meandering jam halted the heretofore Apocolypto-like pace. It was “Into the Hollow,” a song off the new record, Era Vulgaris. Momentum was lost. The crowd looked confused. Then another new song: “Misfit Love,” this one with call-and-response Motown choruses. Oh, dear. Then “Suture Up Your Future,” which sounded like a jazz cover of “Better Living Through Chemistry,” from Rated R. They recovered a little bit at the end of the set with an epic “Song for the Dead” and came back out and dominated “I Think I Lost My Headache” during the encore, but . . . look, I really want to avoid sounding like a bitter ex. (Sigh.) I suppose it’s inevitable. I don’t want to get into “performance” or talk out of school about how Queens has “lost its fastball” or anything like that. I’m trying to be classy here. I just like their old stuff better, OK?
Thanks for the memories.