Queens of the Stone Age / Manchester Arena | 19th of November

Queens of the Stone Age / Manchester Arena | 19th of November

Stood among the staunch Queens of the Stone Age fans at quarter past eight on Sunday evening, I watched as thousands navigated the stairs towards their seats or spot. I’ve no doubt I speak for the majority when I say it was a gig I’d been excited about since it was announced in summer.

The pre-show playlist was dominated by ACDC, ostensibly as a tribute to the late Malcolm Young. After standing around for about half an hour, the hard-rock hepcats swaggered on stage, kicking off the show with fan favourite If I Had a Tail. Homme was on top form from the off, nonchalantly sneering the lyrics down from his pulpit. Phosphorescent stanchions encompassed the band on stage, undulating and colliding with Homme and co. in what was a frenetic and idiosyncratic visual aesthetic throughout.

This freneticism similarly emanated from the desert rockers’ sound. The likes of No One Knows and ‘Millionaire’ were warmly received, the former featuring an emphatic drum solo from Jon Theodore. Furthermore, the balefully arranged crescendo of Feet Don’t Fail Me Now yielded to its voluptuous sludge-funk guitar riff, engulfing Manchester in its sonic sandstorm.

The band stirred up a hellbroth of a setlist that catered for all fans, disseminating its feral silt from throughout the years. Veteran fans were rewarded with a scintillating performance of Regular John from the band’s first record – one of the highlights of the night – while newcomers were treated to an effusive rendition of Villains of Circumstance from the most recent album. The latter provided a palpable example of the ultimate synergy of the gig as a whole, highlighting the startling dichotomy between its slow, crooning qualities and the band’s quintessential, surly rock songs. The mellow cadences of Make it Wit Chu induced a blissful lethargy throughout the audience, whereas the final song, A Song for the Dead, prompted a frantic climax, the crowd pushing and shoving to the pounding drums and sinister guitar. Overall, a catalogue that covered all bases.

Homme’s interaction with the audience was often beguiling and humorous, infused with drunken aphorisms and statements of admiration for Manchester’s musical history, as he dedicated the first encore song Head Like a Haunted House to the city. He reiterated this same sentiment before leaving the stage, declaring, ‘From one real band to one real city. We love you!’. After a topless fan stripped down to his boxers on the big screen, the frontman questioned, ‘Why does he do it?’. ‘I have the fucking answer’, Homme continued, ‘cos he just wants to go with the fucking flow!’. His jocose anecdotes and general willingness to involve the crowd throughout was indicative of the band’s overall efficacy in producing an arena gig that maintains some element of intimacy. Homme’s stage presence adds another facet to an already exceptional band, and the sheer dynamism of QOTSA is more apparent now than ever.

 

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