Queens of the Stone Age returned to the Forum in Inglewood on Saturday night for a sold-out show, a return to form two months out of the drunken forehead-cutting, camera-kicking disruption of last year’s KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas. It’s clear there was no wrecking ball in spirit this time around, replaced instead by a theme of gleaming gold-tooth smirk in a glowing red post-Valentine haze.
The iconic coliseum and former home to the Lakers was adorned in Villains regalia, with a larger-than-life light-up Queens sign outside pulled right out of The Way You Used To video and a “Villains Club” rebranding of the VIP area. The latter was packed with red-themed confections, from licorice to chocolate, skittles and the like, a bounty for all but entitled charlatans.
Openers Royal Blood, the UK duo who’ve appeared alongside QOTSA at Cal Jam ’17 and the Almost Acoustic Christmas gig, enjoyed a nearly-full house early on as they blasted through two albums’ worth of buzz-throb anthems to a captivated crowd. The momentum continues to rise for the duo, whose angular synchronicity onstage is exceeded in potency only by the night’s headliners. Drummer Ben Thatcher has an odd way of making the most thunderously intense beats look casual, whether through the adrenalized swing of Come on Over or the galloping danger of Out of The Black. Meanwhile, vocalist-bassist Mike Kerr has found a sweet spot between cool disconnect and impassioned injection, establishing a deepening frontman captivation that’s done no small favors for passive fans looking for a passion entrypoint without the preening melodrama facade of a band like Muse.
The main event found a packed house roaring as Queens took their places onstage. Even before the opening chimes of If I Had a Tail, there was a celebratory sense in the air, as if the year were ending, or even a treasonous presidency. Then, sharp as a switchblade, the band drove through five high-energy numbers in unnervingly perfect synchronicity with one another. The Vultures-gone-pop plead of Feet Don’t Fail Me Now snapped into its fan-polarizing spirited sibling The Way You Used to Do, frontman Joshua Homme careening about, kicking light poles and leaning into a front-end drive alongside the dapper demon Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar.
The man whose miniscus has been an issue of late strutted about unimpeded, like Lucifer hiding in a tall drink of ginger. Through the sunny slow-burn fan treat of You Can’t Quit Me Baby, Homme sauntered about the stage with a cocksman’s air of sensual intent, as though it were some pre-grind ritual where the line blurs between audience and participant. This was furthered by the intoxicated seduction of Make It Witchu, testing the falsetto powers of the masses in chorus accompaniment.
Bassist Michael Shuman was Homme’s suited savage counterpart – often a blur of hair and a thousand-yard stare in his rhythmic-spine partnership with drummer John Theodore. Like rabid runaway elephants, Jon’s moves on the kit are fluid and pulverizing at once, breaking through on two drum solos with gargantuan velocity.
The crowd was peppered with stars, but the big-name surprises weren’t limited to the floor. Midas producer Mark Ronson, who worked the boards on Villains, joined the gang for four of a five-song encore run which included the poignant purgatorial molasses of The Vampire of Time and Memory, as well as a surprise tribute to Queen Elton John with the ominous falsetto blessing of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
The final two tracks provided the kind of burning-up-on-reentry sensation that’s become a trademark of Queens show finales – a bittersweet adrenaline bath, a furious blur of intensity and then out. A funkier Un-Born Again led into the tectonic rhythmic firestorm of Song For The Dead, the perfect closing assault from the tightest gang in rock. And with that, we were thrust off into the night.
Setlist: Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum 2.17.18
If I Had a Tail
Monsters in the Parasol
My God Is the Sun
Feet Don’t Fail Me
The Way You Used to Do
You Can’t Quit Me Baby
No One Knows
The Evil Has Landed
I Sat by the Ocean
Burn the Witch
Make It Wit Chu
I Appear Missing
Villains of Circumstance
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory (with Mark Ronson)
Broken Box (with Mark Ronson)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (with Mark Ronson)
Un-Reborn Again (with Mark Ronson)
A Song for the Dead
Photos: Johnny Firecloud