Concert Review

Queens of the Stone Age Were a Rock Machine at Innings Festival

Queens of the Stone Age headlined the first night of Innings Festival.
Kelsee Becker
Queens of the Stone Age headlined the first night of Innings Festival.
If there were a stoner rock version of Public Enemy, Josh Homme would be Chuck D and Jesse Hughes would be his Flavor Flav.

Watching the gregarious, mustachioed Hughes lead his Eagles of Death Metal through a fun, good old-fashioned rock show, it was easy to picture him being the perfect hypeman. Hughes showed his buddy and collaborator Homme love throughout his set.

The Eagles of Death Metal even dedicated a cover of Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" to Queens of the Stone Age, with Hughes saying, "This song is about them, even if they weren't around when he wrote it."

Considering their work together in Eagles of Death Metal and long personal history as friends, it makes sense that Hughes would shout out Homme on the mic with a sincerity and regularity that would put most hypemen out of a job. But it also felt like the acknowledgement of a fellow traveler. Both men are rock 'n' rollers playing druggy and boogie-obsessed guitar rock, making them an endangered species in a music festival circuit that favors gentler indie bands and club-thumpin' EDM acts.

Or maybe Hughes, a crowd-work pro with energetic and hilarious stage banter, was just getting people stoked for the climax of the Eagles' set, when Homme came out to sit in on the kit. He's the band's studio drummer, and seeing him bang the skins for Hughes' crew in person was a rare treat.

The Eagles of Death Metal's early evening set was a highlight of the Innings Festival's first day.
While Phosphorescent and Sylvan Esso put on great shows, the Eagles stood out with an earnest embrace of rocker theatrics and goofy sense of humor (like going onstage as Pilot's gloriously cheesy "Magic" played).

It would be a tough act for any band to follow — even Queens of the Stone Age.

After Cold War Kids wrapped up on the Right Field stage, the crowd surged across Tempe Beach Park to watch QOTSA's show. They played '70s radio hits, including the Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" over the speakers, as preshow music. Perhaps the most charming moment of the entire day was hearing most of the crowd spontaneously doing the slide whistle sounds to that song.

click to enlarge Queens of the Stone Age captivated the crowd Friday night. - KELSEE BECKER
Queens of the Stone Age captivated the crowd Friday night.
Kelsee Becker
Queens of the Stone Age took to the stage around 10:30. They opened with "If I Had A Tail," and then revealed their show's special effects. The stage was covered in poles that lit up and glowed in alternating colors. The poles would bend and snap back into place if anyone brushed against them, almost like they were navigating an obstacle course while playing.

It was a good thing Queens had some fun lights onstage, because their actual live presence wasn't very captivating. They sounded great live; the band was tight and locked-in, and Homme's guitar was loud and dense enough to make your spine shake. But they lacked the charm and energy that the Eagles of Death Metal had.

What QOTSA lacked in stage presence, though, they made up for with straight jams. It was a satisfying set, full of crowd-pleasing, fist-pumping songs like "No One Knows," "Millionaire," and "I Sat By The Ocean."

In particular, "No One Knows" had a showstopping moment, with the band cutting out before the final verse to let the drummer go off on a kit-annihilating solo.

QOTSA live are a well-oiled, regular-as-clockwork machine. It's hard not to root for a gear to fly off or a string to snap — anything to make things a bit unpredictable.

Critic's Notebook
Last Night: Innings Festival at Tempe Beach Park & Tempe Arts Park

The Crowd: A huge crowd that ran the gamut from excited kids running around with pom-poms to old Deadheads. There were even a few folks who looked like they were rejected from a Jersey Shore casting call: Cheetos-colored spray tans, huge muscles, and hairstyles that even anime characters wouldn't be caught dead rocking.

Overheard: "Clap along! Don't be afraid. There's one guy here who's like, 'I'm not going to do it.' That's all right. The rest of you are doing it." — Josh Homme.

Random Notebook Dump: Before Queens started their set, there was a guy in the audience with a flute who was playing along to all the preshow music. Is this some sort of new planking-style meme I haven't heard of yet? Was this guy Jethro Tulling?