Queens of the Stone Age + Sweethead @ NIA, Birmingham – Thursday 21st November 2013

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Review by Greg Cadman

This has been a big week for California desert heroes Queens of the Stone Age; their first proper UK tour in quite some time, in arenas of all places and not to mention their first Midlands show in ages. They’ve brought Sweethead, side project of Queens guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen along for support, although they aren’t as sweet as their name implies. If anything, they’re actually quite flavourless. Scuzzy guitars layed over simple basslines should make for a winning formula, as it worked for Kyuss and early Queens material, but it all ends up being one droning bore after another. Their frontlady is clad in a sparkly green one piece bodysuit but she does little to add any kind of discernible character to the monotony, as her bland voice and unengaging stage presence do the band no favours.

QOTSA
QOTSA

Tonight’s headliners, on the other hand, are anything but a bore. Kicking things off with ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire’ is a fantastic way to start a performance, although it has to be said Josh singing it isn’t half as effective as Nick Oliveri’s screaming on the original recorded version. Then they do what most bands would never even dream of: following with their biggest ever hit, No One Knows. Don’t go thinking that this means the set peaks too early though: quality songs are like currency for QOTSA and there is plenty more to come, from the catchy simplicity of Sick, Sick Sick to the mellow, seductive tones of ‘Make It Wit Chu’, the hypnotic psychedelia of ‘In the Fade’ and the all-out assault of ‘Song for the Dead’. In addition, bar one song, the entirety of their excellent new album …Like Clockwork is performed, and songs like ‘My God Is the Sun’, ‘Smooth Sailing’ and ‘If Sat By the Ocean’ all sitting comfortably within their treasure trove of a back catalogue.

Aside from a large screen as a backdrop showcasing images from music videos and the like, there’s not a whole lot in the way of a stage show, but QOTSA have never been ones for theatrics and extravagance. Sure, they could’ve put more effort in, but it’s hard to complain when the music is just this good. Josh doesn’t talk to the audience much, which is a shame, but he prefers to let the music carry the conversation. They’re a band who prefer to be classy rather than flashy, and it’s why they’re so great; they’ve never rode on gimmicks of fancy firework displays and while those work for other acts, Queens are the thinking man’s rock band. There is no denying that their presentation could use some work, but there aren’t many contemporary acts who can provide such finely crafted, intelligent but non-pretentious rock music to a large audience. It’s about time they started playing arenas and there are few bands who deserve it more.

 

Setlist:
1. You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire
2. No One Knows
3. The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
4. My God Is the Sun
5. Monsters in the Parasol
6. I Sat by the Ocean
7. …Like Clockwork
8. In the Fade
9. If I Had a Tail
10. Kalopsia
11. Little Sister
12. Fairweather Friends
13. Smooth Sailing
14. Make It Wit Chu
15. I Appear Missing
16. Sick, Sick, Sick
17. Go With the Flow

Encore:
18. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
19. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
20. A Song for the Dead