“We been together so long you’d think we’d get sick of fucking each other,” Josh Homme smiles, “but that just ain’t the way.”
The ‘we’ in question, it seems, is the fandom that’s stayed with Queens of the Stone Age for 27 years and to whom he pays repeated tribute during this contradictory arena show. In some ways, this is the Homme of old, shorn of the grey goatee he donned around the release of brilliantly brutal new album ‘In Times New Roman’ and throwing moves – one leg cocked, his arms pointed campily to the sky – that remind you they used to call him ‘the ginger Elvis’.
Yet that album capped off a period rocked by what he euphemistically described to NME as the “extreme ups and downs of life”, and he exudes a curious uncertainty tonight. At one point, he admits he’s “fucking nervous”, which is some distance from the barking ringmaster persona that defined a Glastonbury 2023 performance so incendiary that footage of its seething circle pit went viral. There, he demanded the crowd “fuck shit up together”. Here, he ruminates on the difficulty of love (“I’m terrible at it”) and precedes one gooey monologue with the confession: “When I get scared or unsure, I talk too much.”
Musically, of course, he’s on firmer ground: there’s no denying that the five-piece are one of the greatest rock bands on the planet. He cackles dirtily before scything through new track ‘Carnavoyeur’, pounds out a ‘No One Knows’ so massive the audience bellows its riff as though it’s a football chant and decorates ‘Straight Jacket Fitting’, another newbie, with a fresh pyschobilly jangle. The 50-year-old even manages to maintain his word-perfect delivery of the latter when he surfs the front few rows.
It’s this well-honed crowd-pleasing, perhaps, that earns QOTSA the right to extended jam band makeovers, which are by turns immersive (a swampy ‘Better Living Through the Chemistry’) and politely received. Has anyone gone to a gig, ever, and thought, “I hope they do a drum solo in the encore”?
Still, the unifying ‘Make It Wit You’ and breakneck closer ‘Song for the Dead’ easily redress the set’s balance and it seems a performer of Homme’s charisma can’t help but entertain. “It’s only because of you that we’re here tonight,” the frontman gushes, before catching himself. “If you think that’s cheesy,” he adds, harnessing that ringmaster energy once more, “go fuck yourself.”
Queens of the Stone Age played
‘No One Knows’
‘My God Is the Sun’
‘If I Had a Tail’
‘The Way You Used to Do’
‘Better Living Through Chemistry’
‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’
‘I Sat by the Ocean’
‘Straight Jacket Fitting’
‘Make It Wit Chu’
‘God Is in the Radio’
‘Go With the Flow’
‘A Song for the Dead’