Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters are currently touring South America, and we caught them on their March 2nd stop in Curitiba, Brazil – their first ever stop in the city. With support from Brazilians Ego Kill Talent, it was an appropriately awesome evening.
This would mark QOTSA’s 10th overall gig in Brazil, but their first tour here since a mixed-bag appearance at the 2015 Rock In Rio festival. Things were clearly different this time around – while the set was still the fairly common greatest hits affair (none of that You Can’t Quit Me, Baby greatness US audiences have been spoiled to see recently), it packed more than enough energy and brutal precision. It was also about as loud as the Foos’ gig, which was a nice surprise. Heading into its fifth year with the same lineup, it’s refreshing how the band can nail even classic staples like Millionaire and No One Knows in a way that makes them sound fresh.
As for the new material, loved by some, maligned by others, it all fit very well into the set. The 4 cuts chosen were among Villains‘ best, and even the divisive single The Way You Used to Do sounded rather great in a live setting. It might’ve just been the mix that night, which heavily emphasized Jon Theodore’s drums – precisely what was missing from the studio-recorded counterparts of those songs.
Josh Homme possessed a stronger frontman essence, and gave off a crazed dance machine vibe, prowling and kicking around the light tubes that are now part of band’s stage setup. Early in the set, he claimed we would all “turn this Friday into a Saturday”; later, he asked guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen what day it was, and he replied, “It’s fucking Saturday”. It was hard not to agree. Though it was impossible to top the superb experience that was seeing them at their own gig in 2014, QOTSA made the best they could with the 80 minutes they were given, and maybe even overshadowed the night’s headliners – as they tend to do when they’re not on the top of the bill.
If the Queens’ set was a bit predictable because of how short it was, the Foos’ set was predictable for the opposite reason: two hours and thirty minutes is a bit much. While this means that everyone in attendance probably got to hear the songs they were waiting for, and no one will ever complain the gig was short, it also meant that the band got more than enough opportunity to indulge in jam sessions and crowd interaction routines.
The last time I saw Foo Fighters was in 2012, and I recall that “a few” songs were extended. Notably, Monkey Wrench and Best of You went on for what felt like half an hour, though it was probably more like 10 minutes. This time, I actually checked the clock to see how long Monkey Wrench would go for and, much to my surprise, it was just four minutes. However, as if to compensate for that, almost every other song in the set was stretched to nearly 10 minutes. If you’re Led Zeppelin and you do a bunch of jams and song interpolations in the middle of Dazed & Confused, that’s one thing. If you’re the Foo Fighters, and you take perfectly self-contained, truly great pop songs like Rope, The Pretender and This Is a Call, and keep adding jams to extend them, it doesn’t work quite as well.
It’s conflicting to talk about this. When the band’s playing the parts of the song you recognize from the album, they’re amazing, “one of the best rock bands in the world,” as Josh Homme himself said at the end of the Queens set. But when they go a different way, many times, for almost every song, it just begins to be tiresome. There are moments of excellence, followed by moments of “can we get to the next song?”. After two hours and a half, it’s tiring, but you’re still grateful to hear Everlong live.
In the middle of the set, there’s the usual bit where Dave Grohl introduces the band members, each followed by a short solo or a cover song. Though this happens at every gig, it ends up feeling like the most genuine and laid-back part of the gig. Anyone who’s checked setlist.fm knows they’re gonna play Under Pressure, yet it still manages to be charming in a way. Fans in Curitiba were also treated to the live debut of a cover: keyboardist Rami Jaffee started playing John Lennon’s Imagine, then Grohl sang the words to Van Halen’s Jump. It was weird and kind of hilarious. It’s probably gonna be played at every gig from now on, so it was a cool surprise to get it for the first time ever.
In the end, as exhausting as the whole thing was, it felt like it was worth it. On one hand, if you take all 19 original songs played by the Foos’ during their 2h 30m gig, they add up to a 1h 20m playlist in Spotify. On the other hand, the vast majority of those songs really deserve to be there, and it’s hard to imagine much of a better selection than we got. It’s also especially hard to fault Grohl for not keeping his promise of “playing something from every album,” as nothing from Sonic Highways was present. One can wonder how the night could’ve been better, but one can’t deny that it was fantastic anyway.