Queens of the Stone Age performed at the ACL Moody Theater on Thursday, Oct. 3, as a part of the Austin City Limits (ACL) live music television series. The 60-plus minute set served as a warmup for the band, who performed this past Friday (Oct. 4) at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Attending an ACL taping is, as you could guess, different from attending a conventional live performance. There are several cameras facing the stage; the general admission section of the Moody Theater has part of the floor taped off to separate the crowd from the stage; and you can’t take pictures or record videos from your phone. (Unless, you know, you’re a fairly sneaky person.)
But you can (and are highly encouraged to) rock out, which is what we all did when Queens of the Stone Age took the stage. Hidden in darkness the California-based rock group began their performance with “Millionaire,” off of their third album, Songs For The Deaf. Although the song loses some of its ferocity without ex-bassist Nick Oliveri’s vocals, “Millionaire” served as a good choice to start off the night’s festivities. Also: Queens of the Stone Age made a great decision in choosing drummer Jon Theodore as their permanent drummer. Prior to his joining Queens of the Stone Age, Theodore served as the drummer for The Mars Volta for their first three albums and supporting tours, and collaborated with Rage Against The Machine vocalist Zack de la Rocha on a project entitled, One Day As A Lion. Hearing his dynamic drumming accompany the band’s dark and bluesy tones was one of the best parts of the show.
But what’s truly enjoyable about Queens of the Stone Age is that they’ve honed in on their brand of hard rock: a head-banging inciting combination of dissonance, air guitar-friendly riffs, luscious vocal harmonies and hip swinging grooves. From the piercing foot-stomper “No One Knows” to the slow and sensual “Make It Wit Chu,” the group continues to explore its hard rock roots while experimenting with other influences.
And the musicianship of the band is worth addressing, too. One moment lead singer Josh Homme would have a guitar strapped on himself; the next, he’d be seated at a piano. Same with the other guitarists of the band: Troy Van Leeuwen and Dan Fertita would switch between keyboards and percussion, while Michael Shuman would switch between bass and keyboards. If anything indicates that Queens of the Stone Age continues to redefine themselves and remain relevant as a rock group, their blending of different instruments, rhythms and melodies does.
Considering that the performance was a taping it made sense that the band saved certain songs for their festival performance. But we got the hits (“Little Sister,” “Go With The Flow,” “My God Is The Sun”) and then some: the group ended their set with an extended version of “Songs For The Dead,” which featured twice as many unpredictable stops and untamed energy.
If you have any doubts that rock is slowly taking a back seat to electronic dance music and hip-hop, it’s understandable. But at least we still have Queens of the Stone Age: dudes who’ll continue to make incredible, guitar-driven songs for as long as they can.
*Live photos by Scott Newton courtesy of KLRU.