8.45pm in Dublin’s old Point Theatre, it’s that magical part of the night when the audience, having rushed the bars one last time, begin to occupy prime real estate for the evening. A swell of bodies amasses front and centre, the air crackling with anticipation. The PA music ebbs away, cheers and screams bounce off the walls, the lights go down and the intro music pipes up. We’ve all been here before but it’s still a thrill every time it happens.
A thirty-something couple squeeze by with a jumbo combo of sweets, popcorn and drinks, presumably having taken a wrong turn on their way to the cineplex next door. Two lads behind me, utterly determined to drain every last drop of surprise from the gig, pore through recent set lists on a popular website. Welcome to Rock n’ Roll Gig – 2017 style. Where your mobile phone provider has not only sponsored the venue but has laid on a VIP bar full of non VIPs just like you who happen to share the same mobile phone provider. Where Mr. and Mrs. glam it up in high street rock threads and play Rockstars and Groupies for the night, forming civilized lines outside (and inside) the cubicles, attracting jealous looks from the poor unfortunates who can’t afford it because Santa ain’t cheap. Where best mates who’ve spent the day posting food photos and status updates can catch up on their insta-memories loudly during your favourite song.
8.50pm. Queens Of The Stone Age have arrived. Their stage bears what appears to be several upright lightsabres which glow fantastically against a dark backdrop. Troy Van Leeuwen, ever the coolest guy in the room, plays the opening lick to ‘If I Had A Tail’ and we’re off, Josh Homme kicking whatever lightsabre gets in his way. It’s a minimalist set up but one which the band have fun with. Generally, the sound is good throughout, with Homme’s guitar solos especially prominent on ‘I Appear Missing’, although it gets muddy during sludgier songs in the set like ‘Regular John’ and the brilliant ‘Misfit Love’. ‘No One Knows’ is ruined by a self-indulgent drum solo, the less said about that the better. The newer songs from the recent Villains LP sound meatier, freed from the compression of Mark Ronson’s production, ‘Head Like A Haunted House’ sounding so much better with drums that actually sound like drums as opposed to the tin can effect on record. The same cannot be said for the dull ‘Domesticated Animals’, its inclusion tonight all the more baffling considering the absence of gems like ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ and ‘First It Giveth’.
The pace slows around the hour mark with some mid-tempo numbers which lead to the centrepiece of the show, a gorgeous ‘Villains Of Circumstance’; the stage designed to appear smaller and shrouded in a turquoise fog. A ferocious 1-2-3 of ‘Little Sister’, ‘Sick Sick Sick’ (with stunning strobes) and ‘Go With The Flow’ sees mosh pits collide with circle pits, naked torsos struck by flying beer, fans ejected by security – and it is a fucking joy to watch. This is a proper rock n’ roll gig. Homme & co. bow out on this – the last night of the tour – with the epic ‘A Song For The Dead’, and the earlier drum solos, cheesy song introductions and the ubiquitous Ole Ole Ole chant are almost forgotten. Not as thrillingly dangerous as they were that night in the Ambassador in 2002, Queens Of The Stone Age in full flight are still one of the greatest bands in rock n’ roll today.
Queens of the Stone Age photographed for State by Leah Carroll