Killer Queens

Joe Costello rocks out to Queens of the Stone Age at Resorts World Arena.

Almost exactly ten years to the day since their last visit to Birmingham, their 2017 tour neglecting to schedule a visit the home of rock for some reason, Queens of the Stone Age arrive at what I and everyone else surely still calls the NEC. I always imagine this to be a terrible venue but it’s spacious, decent sound, sightlines and other amenities and as one gets older, these things are as important as atmosphere and intimacy.

The band come on stage to the sound of Peggy Lee’s version of Smile and that’s about as quiet as it gets for the best part of two hours. A ferocious Regular John from 1998’s eponymous debut opens the show followed by No One Knows, my companion musing it seemed a little early in the set to be playing one of their more well known tracks but with as solid a back catalogue as they possess they can afford to do so and the fan favourites keep coming throughout the evening. The triangular, illuminated stage set was slightly reminiscent to me of the White Stripes video for Seven Nation Army and frontman Josh Homme perhaps read my mind with an impromptu “I’m gonna fight ‘em all… that’s all I know” in the middle of the show

Their latest and eighth studio album In Times New Roman… provides the lion’s share of the songs performed and the vaguely punning titles such as Emotion Sickness and Paper Machete among them all point to recent well documented domestic and legal issues between frontman Homme and wife Brody Dalle. The pair have filed multiple restraining orders against each other with Homme being granted custody of their three children after it was revealed Dalle’s current boyfriend had forged the signatures on the application. Coupled with his treatment last year for cancer, “Just the cherry on top of an interesting time period” as he put it himself, you can see how lines like “We live, we die, we fail, we rise” from Carnavoyeur can come into being.

There’s little in the way of engagement with the audience, the size of the venue likely accounting for that but when he does address us it, it is to tell us to forget that it’s a Sunday and to dance like it’s a Saturday night, “It’s a working-class town Birmingham, but you don’t have to be afraid to wiggle just because you work hard” and claiming he’d spent the day smoking weed, his on-stage persona coming across like Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance but with power chords, a cigarette visibly smouldering away in his headstock in the latter portion of the gig.

All eight of their albums are represented during the course of the evening in fact, poignantly, the only inclusion from Rated R is the relatively slow tempo In the Fade which opens up the four song encore, this having originally been sung on that album by longtime collaborator and occasional vocalist, the late Mark Lanegan, as was the final song of the night A Song for the Dead. As we head out to the capacious car parks and convenient transport links, we can just make out the house PA playing Roy Orbison’s It’s Over despite the ringing in our ears.