Queens of the Stone Age was a perfect choice for the Point's (KPNT 105.7) annual Pointfest. After all, QOTSA is one of the only bands able to strike the balance between the muscular rock that appeals to the station's listeners and the arty sensibilities that resonate with indie audiences, thus ensuring mass appeal. The California desert quintet played up to the former crowd that dominated the venue with a set that leaned on its hardest-rocking material, resulting in a thunderous and thrilling performance.
Leading off with "...Millionaire," Queens exhibited a tight chemistry from the beginning. While it's awkward to hear frontman Josh Homme sing where his departed bandmate Nick Oliveri once screamed, all five musicians locked into the song's propulsive, snarling groove and set the table nicely for "No One Knows." There's nothing like playing your biggest hit early to fully capture the attention of your audience. Homme took advantage of this to tell the crowd during the bass breakdown that the group had been drinking tequila since 4 p.m. He then instructed the sign-language interpreter to relay the message to "fuck shit up."
Homme kept up the debauched rock-star routine for a few songs before the tequila apparently wore off, but the band itself was unrelenting. Queens powered through straight-ahead rockers including blues stomper "Burn The Witch" and the tongue-in-cheek glam scorcher "Smooth Sailing" with aplomb. All the while, Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita traded stellar guitar solos, using their recorded counterparts as a loose template off of which to improvise.
Not that they were always playing six-stringers; Van Leeuwen and Fertita spent just as much time plucking ghostly synths and pianos, and Van Leeuwen added appropriately greasy pedal steel to "Burn the Witch." But when they all picked up axes, as they did on "My God Is the Sun," Homme, Van Leeuwen and Fertita whipped up a maelstrom of guitar heroics. A three-guitar attack is usually excessive, but Queens proved that with the right talent and arrangements, it can be beautifully executed.
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A big part of that equation is the rhythmic foundation established by drummer Jon Theodore and bassist Michael Shuman. (Theodore was particularly impressive in his note-for-note replication of the complex fills and jerky patterns written by former Queens drummers Dave Grohl and Joey Castillo.)
As excellent as the show was, it wasn't faultless. Things hit a slight lull during successive numbers "If I Had a Tail" and "I Sat By the Ocean." Though both are fine songs, they aren't in the same league as the rest of the set, and their slower tempos slowed the group's momentum. Also not helping were Shuman's bass effects, which made him too loud in a few spots on "Ocean" and "Smooth Sailing."
These minor complaints were quickly forgotten during the show's closing segment. Queens surged through the incessant riffing of "Go With the Flow" before revving up fan-favorite "Song For the Dead." Here, the group bashed through its trademark "robot rock" style in the song's intro before yielding to its stop-start verses. Homme and Van Leeuwen then got to have fun throwing different fills in each gap before eventually unleashing a monstrous dual solo. This gave way to a short but effective drum solo that transitioned into the furious tom-tom pounding that drives the song's outro.
This climax would have been tough to follow, which is perhaps why Queens didn't bother trying. Even for a shortened festival set, the band had room for a couple more songs. Instead they left the stage, now littered with feedback-producing guitars. That extra run-time would have been more than welcome, but it's hard to imagine any way a performance this satisfying would not leave fans wanting more.
You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire No One Knows My God Is the Sun Burn the Witch Smooth Sailing Little Sister If I Had a Tail I Sat By the Ocean Go With the Flow Song For the Dead
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