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Review: Queens of the Stone Age bring bruising, blistering rock show to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg



Reason No. 666 why you do not mess with Josh Homme:

Late in Queens of the Stone Age’s bruising, blistering concert Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Homme was at a piano, plinking out the introspective, Bowie-like torch song The Vampyre of Time and Memory, when a big, beefy, bearded fan, you know the type, rushed the stage to hoot and holler and profess his love for the singer.

Homme didn’t flinch, because Homme never flinches. Instead he stood up, grabbed the guy by the scruff of the neck. The fan tried to wrest free and flee into the wings. Homme clenched harder.
Coolly, methodically, with serial-killer calm, Homme perp-walked the guy to the lip of the stage and ... shove. Into the orchestra pit, to the cheers of the crowd.

“I don’t care if you love me,” Homme seethed, glaring and glowering. “You’re lucky I don’t f--- you up, bro.”

Time was, he might have done just that. Queens of the Stone Age, and especially their towering, no-BS frontman, have a rep for hard living, dating back to Homme’s salad days playing all-night parties in the California desert. It was a rep backed up by more than a decade of muscular, take-no-prisoners metal.

But that was before Homme nearly died in 2010 following complications from knee surgery and the staph infection MRSA. The experience inspired parts of QOTSA’s diverse, operatic new album, the Grammy-nominated ...Like Clockwork, which spliced in moments of quiet introspection (like the aforementioned, interrupted Vampyre) amongst the band’s trademark hemorrhage-inducing rock riffs.

Can we say the 1,660 fans on hand at the Mahaffey bore witness to a kinder, gentler Josh Homme? Put it this way: At least stage-rushers now have a prayer of not getting pummeled to a pulp.

Thick as a sequoia and nearly as tall, with a tight ginger pompadour and casually menacing gaze, Homme’s voice and guitar utterly dominated the evening. While guitarists Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Ferlita and bassist Michael Shuman looked the rock-star part, thrashing around in black duds and stringy bangs — this, by the way, takes nothing away from their stellar musicianship — Homme, for the most part, eschewed any hint of histrionic artifice. For most of the night, he played one guitar, a hollow-body MotorAve BelAire with the polished lines of Stephen King’s Christine; and he did so it with brutal efficiency, from the roaring gallop of breakout hit No One Knows to the daisy-cutting yowl of Smooth Sailing to the frenetic squeal of Little Sister.

While the setlist was chock-full of the repetitive, engine-revving riffs that have become Homme’s hallmark — 2000’s Feel Good Hit of the Summer; 2002’s You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire; and 2005’s Sick, Sick, Sick were prime examples — there were moments when ...Like Clockwork’s gravity and vulnerability shone through.

Through coils of cigarette smoke, Homme delivered the album’s beautiful title track in a funereal falsetto; the effect was like a mournful, piano-bar take on Pink Floyd. On the hypnotic “love song” Kalopsia — a song, Homme said, about “when you find yourself at the mercy of someone else” — his guitar echoed through the Mahaffey in delicate, watery ripples.

But for all his newfound feels, Homme is a merciless bruiser at heart, and when the volume cranked up, so did his swagger. On the concussive Burn the Witch; the fuzzy, loosey-goosey Misfit Love and ... Like Clockwork’s My God Is The Sun — a song so crushing it closed out this year’s Grammys — Homme glared around the house like a man sizing up a sketchy bar, practically daring fans not to surrender their sweat. Yet his body betrayed a funny delight in the moment, as his hips and torso swayed to the beat of each devilish song.

Maybe, at 40, Homme really is more content to act his age. Or maybe he’s just happy to be alive. Either way, we’d be careful asking him to his face.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:32pm]


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