It was Queens of the Stone Age‘s fourth gig in Brazil, my third time seeing them, and their very first non-festival concert in the country. Their first time around, in 2001, was a hot mess played to the wrong crowd, in the wrong lineup, followed by Nick Oliveri’s arrest for being naked onstage (Brazil is more conservative than you imagine); the second, a much better scenario, still suffered from a shit PA and clueless teenage festivalgoers; then last year, they kicked off the …Like Clockwork touring cycle in Brazil with a bang – though still on an unfair festival slot. Last Thursday, QOTSA brought the final leg of the same tour to São Paulo’s Espaço das Américas. Their own gig, to a sold-out crowd of almost 9,000 people, with an opening slot by Alain Johannes. As Brazilians would find out, this was the proper way to experience the band live.
Alain Johannes’ acoustic set was in its usual excellence. Pulling a couple of tracks from his upcoming album Fragments and Wholes Vol. 1, as well as songs from his first LP Spark, it received a warm welcome from the audience. Things got better when two songs from the Desert Sessions popped up (Making a Cross and Holey Dime), and the show was closed off with an excellent version of Eleven’s Why. The excitement and the heat were palpable during the break between sets; after what seemed to be an interminable amount of minutes, Spiders and Vinegaroons came on the PA, and QOTSA took the stage.
It’s funny what a rabid group of fans can do to certain songs. The opening duo of Millionaire and No One Knows, a staple of the tour, hit like an explosion. Most people there had probably heard No One Knows to death already, but the insanely loud singalong and the jumping around made it look like everyone was dying to hear it – that, and the twenty other songs that were played throughout the night. In many ways, it felt like their first proper gig in Brazil, with no restraints, no time limit, no need to stick to any particular setlist. Every period of the band’s history was present, some songs considered “rarer” than others, some albums with less representation on the setlist, yet none of that mattered. The band seemed to make exactly the concert they wanted to, and those watching were all the better for it.
Eighteen months ago, when they played their very first show with Jon Theodore, the band was already tight, though taking few risks. This time, however, the added experience of a year and a half on the road was showing, as the members clearly gelled much better and were firing on all cylinders by now. It was amazing to have seen My God Is the Sun on its live debut, and now, almost 200 concerts later, with every word memorized by the crowd. Such was also was the case with the other seven tracks from …Like Clockwork that were played, proving that the album is up there with the group’s finest material. It’s hard to pick one of the new songs as a standout, but the frantic singalong on Fairweather Friends and the breathless admiration of the solos on I Appear Missing were among the night’s highlights.
At one point in the set, after a solid rendition of the not-so-frequent I’m Designer, some people up front started requesting Mexicola. This happened at both gigs I had seen before, starting with a few shouts here and there, until people actually got organized and chanted for the track in-between songs. The other times I saw this take place, Josh Homme seemed to take notice; this time, people were sure he’d noticed the request, because he actually addressed it: “We’ll play Mexicola a little bit later alright? We’ll play whatever you want, we came all the way here just to play for you. Is it alright if we play I Sat By the Ocean first?” Sure enough, by the end of the main set, they delivered on the promise. Mexicola came on like a pure, unabashed catharsis, that one gem that fans will talk about getting on their show, made all the more special by the fact that it actually wasn’t on the printed setlist.
And in the end, the whole gig had a sense of reward to it. South American fans tend to get the shaft quite often when it comes to bands on the same scale as QOTSA, who usually get put on festivals once every few years, and that’s it. The show in São Paulo felt like the proper, 100% accurate rendition of the band, in the best possible setting. Moments of calculated precision and pure improvise, tight and loose, heavy and light, all mixed together in perfect flow. After nearly two hours, anyone in attendance would’ve rightfully gotten their money’s worth, whether they waited years for this moment or not. Most bands don’t have to tour South America, for several logistical reasons that may or may not make sense to a fan; but when they do, they should look at what QOTSA are doing right now, and follow suit.
You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
No One Knows
My God Is the Sun
Monsters in the Parasol
I Sat by the Ocean
Feel Good Hit of the Summer
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
If I Had a Tail
Make It Wit Chu
I Appear Missing
Sick, Sick, Sick
Go With the Flow
The Vampyre of Time and Memory
Do It Again
A Song for the Dead
Some more heavily-cropped, barely-visible photos can be found below. Check out our new interview with Alain Johannes here.