Buoyant fans sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Josh Homme on Tuesday night, May 17, when Queens of the Stone Age played The Roundhouse, London, in what was a celebratory night all round.
The Californian rockers were on a relatively short tour to promote the re-release of the band’s 1998 debut album, the one where Homme devised his own stripped-back sound distinct from his early years with desert rockers Kyuss.
That record was overshadowed by QOTSA’s breakthrough release two years later with ‘Rated R,’ though this live set showed the early material stood up on its own. Certainly you could hear Homme laying the groundwork for later success with the driving riffs and high, dreamy vocals on ‘Regular Jon.’
Homme has explained that on this first album, he sought a new sound based on insistent rhythms and grinding repetition that would get girls dancing, though what was striking was the variety he managed to eke out of that premise. The heavy, yet lithe, groove of ‘Mexicola’ was a clear stand-out, though also memorable were the abstract soundscapes of ‘I Was a Teenage Hand Model’ (Gotta love those song titles), anchored by a metronomic piano, and the drawn-out jam over Joey Castillo’s spacious drumming that was ‘You Can’t Quit Me Baby.’
Responding to the crowd’s adulation, the five-piece returned for two encores, beginning with further excursions into the depths of their back catalogue — notably ‘Monster in the Parasol’ and ‘Hangin’ Tree,’ originally sung by occasional Queen Mark Lanegan — before closing with ‘Go With The Flow’ and ‘Little Sister.’ QOTSA’s current, settled line-up was brutally competent, though you wonder how much Homme needs a foil such as the ex-Screaming Trees singer.
It has been four years since his main group released the variable ‘Era Vulgaris,’ time punctuated by super group Them Crooked Vultures and festival appearances last year to play ‘Rated R.’ Homme dismissed the band’s generosity on the night by saying they would be gone for some time, presumably to record that belated sixth album. Now they have revisited their founder’s roots, QOTSA should return revitalised.