Queens of the Stone Age, Live at the Keller Auditorium

It’s become increasingly clear that if you’re going to see a band perform, it’s best to do it in Portland.  Sure, we always have enthusiastic crowds and a ton of great venues, but that’s been the case for years.  What I’m talking about is that special moment that sends you straight to your cell phone to put everyone on blast that “Holy shit, you won’t believe what happened at the **** show!”  Just in the past few months, we’ve seen a Sleater-Kinney “reunion” at a Pearl Jam show, Jim James showing up to do a John Lennon cover with The War On Drugs, and now a surprise reconciliation at Tuesday’s Queens of the Stone Age concert.

I didn't realize most of the new material was in standard tuning

I didn’t realize most of the new material was in standard tuning

Queens kicked things off with a bang, perhaps buoyed by the announcement earlier in the day of their number 2 ranking in RIJR’s Album of the Year rankings, with the raucous “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”.  Few bands would then follow up their opener with their biggest hit, but QOTSA knew that the sold-out crowd didn’t come just to hear the songs they heard from the radio.  That’s what we call confidence, my friends.  After that, “Avon” brought a huge cheer from the fans who remember QOTSA’s self-titled debut with fondness.

The band then went on a run of material from their scintillating new album, …Like Clockwork.  By the end of the night, 80% of the album would be covered, and considering the excellence of the material, nobody minded missing out on a couple of old favorites.  The lead single “My God Is The Sun” serves as an excellent bridge between classic Queens desert-rock and the rest of the new album, with its catchy riffs and rolling drums interspersed with a groovy shaker rhythm.  However, it was what’s in my opinion …Like Clockwork‘s cornerstone “I Appear Missing” that was the highlight of the new material, with its intoxicating and hypnotic Gothic groove that you allow to drag you forward, even though you know it’s probably not a good idea.  The band did a brilliant job of extending the ending, as if caught in a trap with ever-escalating tension, matching the image of a man falling forever and ever from the sky.  As the band brought the volume down, the crowd watched the video screen and there was a moment that you thought perhaps the character would live to see a happy ending, but then the band snapped back with full force and that was the end for Our Hero.  It was but one of many examples of how QOTSA was able to improve on already-fantastic new material.

As the band neared the end of their main set, Josh Home dedicated Rated R‘s “Better Living Through Chemistry” to “his brother from a fucked-up mother”, former bandmate Nick Oliveri.  Nick played bass with the opening band, Moistboyz (who also featured another QOTSA collaborator in Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween)), and it was good to see further confirmation that he and Josh had patched things up.  The song itself was a perfect distillation of the greatness of Queens, and was one of the most mind-blowing performances that I could remember; in many ways, it was an inversion of many standard rock tropes, with epic breakdowns and solos.  Queens capped off the first part of the evening with the excellent “Go With the Flow”, leaving the crowd breathless but wanting more.

An amazing show even from these ridiculous seats.

An amazing show even from these ridiculous seats.

The band returned for their encore with the haunting “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, featuring Josh behind the piano.  As the roadies wheeled away the extra piano, a familiar guitar riff came on, and the crowd went apeshit as they heard the opening to “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire.”  Josh then brought Nick out on stage and handed him a mic, and Portland then witnessed Nick perform with Queens of the Stone Age for the first time in ten years as the crowd lost their shit a second time.  “Gimme toro, gimme some more!!!”  The band ended the evening with the live favorite “A Song For The Dead”, officially making it worth the wait since the band’s last stop in Portland several years ago.  And considering Josh’s lively interactions with the crowd and the several bits of praise he had for Portland (“You got yourselves a cool town…fuck it, you’re the best.”), hopefully we’ll be seeing him again soon.

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