Tonight, as the penultimate Belsonic event graces Belfast city, Custom House Square is hosting the inimitable Queens of the Stone Age, one of the biggest bands to have ever been involved with the annual mini-festival. Approaching the open air venue which is nestled between the city’s Cathedral and Titanic quarters, the atmosphere surrounding the square is one of giddy excitement and there is something distinctly carnivalesque in the air. It’s early days and the gates won’t open for some time, so, we sit directly across from the venue and watch as fans old and young descend upon the gates, biding their time. So far, scores of people are meeting and greeting whilst ear to ear grins convey the youthful eagerness that bonds them. Soon, scores of people turns to hundreds and as we make my way in through the gates, the general consensus from overheard chattering seems to be that “THIS IS GOING TO ROCK.”
Which, as first The Minutes get going, is an accurate description. The Dublin rockers do a grand job of warming up the growing crowd with their pummelling riffs and thrashing drums, followed by Brody Dalle and her ensemble. Cutting an imposing figure on stage with bleach blonde hair and head to toe black garb, Dalle (better half of tonight’s leading man) works through a selection of her solo tracks as well as throwing in some well-knowns from her days with The Distillers. Dalle and her band are raw, energetic and snarling. The crowd, now bloody massive, are suitably entertained and an ever expanding sea of fists-in-the-air confirms this. As they leave the stage, the tension is tangible and the wait for the main course feels like forever.
This is a crowd who want their eardrums immediately smashed and their souls shaken. Anticipation does not do this feeling justice. Someone at the front spots the instrument and equipment change-over causing a ripple of hollers and roars that rips through the crowd. This is it. This is happening. They emerge. Josh Homme, towering and confident, leads the band into the opening track ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire,’ sending the crowd into hysterics. Then, as the opening bars of ‘No One Knows’ start to ring out, the near capacity square becomes frenzied. Homme and co. are a tight unit, blasting out tracks from their back catalogue with urgency and technical superiority. These are musicians whose aim is to send the crowd insane, and, as ‘Monsters In The Parasol,’ ‘I’m Designer’ and ‘Little Sister’ are run through, the evidence points to a job extremely well done.
The focus tonight is certainly pinpointed on their wider catalogue, although there are of course some select tracks from their latest full-length, ‘I Sat By The Ocean,’ and ‘If I Had A Tail,’ amongst others. People are maniacally head banging, jumping around like chuffed lunatics and the atmosphere couldn’t be better. This is hypnotic and heavy, built on those uniquely fuzz drenched riffs and frenetic drum hits; it’s pure powerhouse rock. There are moments of interaction too though, with Homme addressing some of the onlookers (and their dog, “I love you, you fucking puppy!”) from the surrounding apartments. He’s good with the crowd as well, although to be fair, he doesn’t really have to be considering the heavenly noise his band are producing. They run through some more classics, including ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer,’ ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret,’ and a particularly gnarly rendition of ‘Go With The Flow.’
At this point, there is no return. We have been truly and thoroughly rocked and as the band leave the stage, the ever reliable mantra of “ONE MORE TUNE!” is repeated until it no longer makes sense. It works though, and Queens of the Stone Age return to the stage to treat us with ‘Make It Wit Chu’ and finally, the blistering, frantic ‘Song For The Dead,’ which is by far the highlight of an extremely satisfying evening. Rapturous applause and a chorus of growled “YEEEOOOO’s” concedes that the crowd have enjoyed every minute of this evening in the heart of Belfast. Darkness shrouds the stage and we take our leave, panting, exhausted but good lord, completely fulfilled. Queens of the Stone Age – you have wrecked us in the best possible way.
Photo: Olga Kuzmenko