NEW YORK, NY—Well into their tour in support of …Like Clockwork, released earlier this year, Queens Of The Stone Age still hadn’t announced any New York area dates. For those of us who would be unable to see them at Philly’s Budweiser Made In America Fest over Labor Day weekend, our envy of the South Americans who were getting more than their fill of QOTSA grew daily, until they finally announced a show at Brooklyn’s new and not-so-shiny Barclays Center with an opening by The Kills. Everyone that attended was expecting a great performance full of energy, loud music, and humor provided by frontman Josh Homme, and no one went home disappointed.
After a wicked trek through the snow, I took my seat about 15 minutes before The Kills took the stage in front of a still-almost-empty arena. A blonde Alison Mosshart and a scarfed Jamie Hince, accompanied by four drummers, performed about 40 minutes’ worth of their biggest songs. Their sound quality was a little rough; I wasn’t sure if it was just their indie, lo-fi aesthetic or if I should be worried for the main show. Nevertheless, though they struggled to connect with the gradually-growing audience, their energy was palpable and I’m glad I got to see Ms. Mosshart in person. After their set, the Barclays stage crew took another 20 minutes to set up for Queens, bringing out their instruments and sets of painted red amplifiers, colored to match their album’s bloody theme. I couldn’t help but be jealous of the guy that brought out Homme’s $5,000+ Motor Ave BelAire and strummed it a few times.
The group took the stage right on time to the resounding applause of an arena full of snow-soaked fans. It all began with a film leader style 60-second countdown projected behind them, accompanied by the echoing feedback that leads into …Like Clockwork’s opener, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.” However, as the countdown struck zero, the Queens surprised the crowd with their rocket-propelled classic “Millionaire,” immediately followed by “No One Knows.” And then it was all off from there, with smoke from the fog machines mixing with various smokes originating from the audience. They blasted through hits like “Burn The Witch,” during which the fans were enticed to sing the melody, and “Smooth Sailing,” which was introduced with a well-received joke about Boston, where they had played the night before.
Later on, a smoking Homme had the house lights brought up, and immediately had them turned off again, saying he likes it better “all dark and sexy.” Then things did indeed get dark and sexy, as the band played an extended version of “Make It Wit Chu” that came complete with soft blue crowd lighting and an invite for the entire arena to chant the pheromone-charged hook in unison. The couple in front of me made out through most of it, as did likely a large portion of the audience. After the romance break was over, the intensity was turned back up with “Sick, Sick, Sick,” another track from 2007’s Era Vulgaris.
If there’s one thing the Queens do well, it’s put on an epic finale. They began with “Better Living Through Chemistry,” a song already heavy on instrumentals that was drawn beyond 10 minutes by expanded, exact solos and amplifier feedback trickery; everyone came together on one final fuzzy note before tearing into “Go With The Flow,” played straight through to an exhilarating finish. The gang put down their instruments, thanked the crowd, and walked off stage as the lights went out.
People began filing out of the dark arena, because for some reason they weren’t expecting an encore. After a minute the stage lights came back up, revealing the band back in position with Homme seated behind a keyboard, ready to open up his softer side with “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory.” Dean Fertita left his keyboard zone to take center stage, where he played the song’s two guitar solos. Homme’s keyboard was then rolled out of the way, and he again passionately thanked everyone for being there. He then cued bassist Mikey Shuman to begin playing “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer,” a song humorously welcome in the safety from the cold mess outside. It flowed seamlessly into “A Song For The Dead,” which was the real closer to remember.
Queens Of The Stone Age clearly have a good time when they play their music, and they want nothing more than to make sure that the people sharing the moment with them are having a good time as well. Walking out of the warm Barclays Center into the rain, mushy snow, and throngs of Santacon-ers sounds unpleasant, but the band made sure that there was not a single unhappy face left after the concert.