Written by Jessica Letkemann • Photography by Jessica Letkemann • June 23, 2017
By the time Queens of the Stone Age’s king Josh Homme put his lips to the mic to tease that the live debut of a brand new song was up next, the 1700 sweaty fans packed into Niagara Falls, NY’s Rapids Theatre had already been whipped into a froth with a string of QOTSA favorites led, appropriately, by “Feel Good Hit of the Summer.”
With the announcement of Villains, the band’s first album in four years, just days old, the Thursday gig (June 22), just a day after the official start of the summer, was destined to be special. Especially since it was their first U.S. gig in almost two years.
So when QOTSA whipped out Villains’ lead single, “The Way You Used To Do” for it’s very first live performance, the crowd erupted into a frenzy, particularly after the swinging, buzzing guitars made way for Homme’s falsetto in full effect. He’s told Beats 1's Zane Lowe that the song is a sonic meld of Cab Calloway and Dean Martin, but add a stiff backbeat and heavy riffage and you’re really in the ballpark. The song is a whipsaw in its recorded form, but live it became a sexy, breathing beast.
After pounding through more goodies from throughout their career — notably a badass “Little Sister” announced with “more cowbell,” the kinetic “Sick, Sick, Sick,” and an “I Sat By the Ocean” whose wah-wah coda made the entire front row weak in the knees — Josh had another new Villains track to lay on us, this time a song that fans have never heard at all.
“The Evil Has Landed” roared out of the gate like the handsome lovechild of onetime Homme side-project Them Crooked Vultures, disco-era Bowie, and some special new rock sauce of QOTSA’s own concoction. Clocking over six minutes, just like the “Used To Do,” it was another ample roller coaster ride, perfect for both headbanging and dancing. Or to use the band’s old lyric, “Metal heavy, soft at the core.”
As for Homme, dancing was the choice of the night. Far more than on the 2013-14 …Like Clockwork tour, the QOTSA singer was possessed by the need to move and groove, hips first, particularly on the new tracks. Those watching closely last year on his Post Pop Depression tour with Iggy Pop, might have seen this coming. There are few harder-rock frontmen who get down quite this effortlessly, and no one else who is a 6’5” ginger with liquid moves. Stomping away on his phalanx of pedals in fantastic alligator-skin-esque boots, Homme was relaxed, flirtatious, and downright happy to be back in front of his crowd with new material.
Normally, you’d see a youtube embed right here with video from the show, but the band was strict about not wanting people to film the gig. And even so, a fan-filmed clip would just not do the new songs justice at all. You have to be there to feel the full thrust of it, with the bass moving through you, and the sound pouring live into your earholes. Fortunately, QOTSA will be bringing the Villains roadshow to an arena near you this fall. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it.
The Mark Ronson-produced Villains album hits August 25, and it should go without saying that you need to hear it when it does. But the Niagara Falls show brought up one more tantalizing possibility: plenty of crew filming the gig from every angle and mics not only on the band but on the audience. What for? No idea, but we can hope.
Still need a taste of new Queens? Sure, check out the audio of the studio version of "The Way You Used To Do" below....
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