Queens Of The Stone Age At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, October 24th, 2017, Reviewed
Last night at Madison Square Garden, Josh Hommes broke up a fight in the pit with a snarled “We’re not the soundtrack to you fighting, we’re the soundtrack to you fucking.” Actually, Queens Of The Stone Age is the soundtrack to neither. Over twenty years of cusp superstardom stymied by a unique inability to write a tune and all the bluster in the world has lead Hommes and QOTSA to that special place where there is a complete disconnect between what they say and what they do.
Maybe it was the venue. Maybe it was too big for the loud but not loud enough, intimate, self-inflating riffarama these guys have sold the paying public (guys who should know better, and girls who want to diddle him), with a leader who wears arrogance with a minimum of comfort. The man is Elvis Presley meets John Wayne as a blonde hunker burning love, but he wears it with an arrogance that has him snapping and slamming. He claims to be drunk, just like he did in Pittsburgh, as though that is going to improve his cool by being “shitfaced,” or telling his dad “I love you but shut the fuck up”.
Musically, the band is good not great, they seem to miss another gear, and the material is strong for a live performance but with exceptions, an early “Feet Don’t Fail Me” and a later “Domesticated Animals,” both off the Mark Ronson influenced personal best though sales don’t prove it Villains, are outstanding, but QOTSA don’t know how to work the room. They act as though they are at T5 so they have no close circuit TV, no effects on stage just LCD bulbs, if Josh is pulling up his lip in a Presley sneer I sure can’t see it. There was something a little cheap about the evening, if you are selling tickets miles from the stage make sure you can find a way to project. Openers Royal Blood did a better job, I haven’t much enjoyed the duos two albums, and it is stupid forcing them to do a 50 minute set, but they were good humored, power driven and quite fun, and QOTSA weren’t.
This is a problem I’ve seen over and over again with rock bands in arenas. Pearl Jam and Coldplay, Bruce and U2, even Green Day, have figured out that the biggest stages deserve the biggest gestures. Stone Roses, Kings Of Leon , and certainly QOTSA, haven’t. Josh, because really the rest of the band is entirely irrelevant, has been playing theatres on this tour, and I bet in a theatre his man superman sexuality comes across well. At MSG it is dwarfed by the environment. QOTSA are in the business of the big moment but they don’t have the feel for it. Roger Arnold claimed Josh Hommes is the Dave Grohl of rock, and he is right, but Grohl is more attuned to the anthem then Josh is. That is something of a compliment to Josh, he has a steely realism to him, but it isn’t right for Arena rock. If he wants to play these kind of places he needs to compose those sort of songs.