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Queens of the Stone Age Kick Off Lollapalooza With Secret Show

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Michael Shuman at Queens of the Stone Age’s secret show.

It’s a yearly tradition for the Metro in Chicago to hold a concert event before Lollapalooza kicks off in the Windy City, and they had a doozy set for Thursday night.

With Queens of the Stone Age not only releasing the excellent …Like Clockwork a few weeks back – their first album in six years, by the way – they are also getting ready to kick off their North American tour with their Lolla gig. Thus, the Metro booking was a round peg fitting into a round hole.

Long before QOTSA’s 9 p.m. start time, fans milled around outside of the venue, asking anyone who looked up from their smart phone if they had an extra ticket to the sold-out show.  Not so, as even though the event wasn’t as secret as advertised, it was definitely private.

Fans packed Metro to the gills, waiting to see Josh Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen, Michael Shuman and the rest of the crew take the stage amidst eerie blue spotlights cutting through the random puffs from vaporizers.

Troy Van Leeuwen rocks the show at the Metro.
Troy Van Leeuwen rocks the show at the Metro.

Once Queens of the Stone Age did – to loud cheers and claps that rang out in time to the thunderous bass emanating through the PA system – there was a palpable sense of excitement.  Not only would these lucky fans see the band’s new tunes live, it seemed that the intimate nature of the venue could only enhance the experience.

With the audience pushing close to the front, QOTSA set the tone early with a particularly shrieking version of “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” which comes off 2007’s R, and the bombastic “No One Knows” from the classic Songs For the Deaf.

“No One Knows” is always a highlight of the Queens’ catalog, but seeing it live is a different story.  Shuman expertly owned the bassline that leads directly into the mass chaos that closes out the song.

The lead single from …Like Clockwork came next, with “My God is the Sun.”  Critics have called QOTSA’s latest effort poppy, but that can’t be said about this song.  With a ferocious riff driving the refrain, it’s as metal as the Queens have ever been.

That being said, “I Sat By the Ocean” has a groovy quality about it that should find its way on mainstream rock radio soon.

Queens of the Stone Age calmed things down with a haunting take on “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” that saw Homme take to the piano in a ballad that would make Dracula rise up from his coffin and sing along.

That yielded to the crowd favorite “If I Had a Tail,” an odd name for a song that carries such a gutter-driven guitar line.  With the entire crowd singing along with Homme, it was truly a victory in connecting with the audience.

Homme caught it, too, noting that it was “So much fun to come to Chicago… It’s so not Florida.”

QOTSA rounded out their set with “Smooth Sailing,” which featured Van Leeuwen on slide guitar, and a relentless “I Appear Missing” that ended in a furious maelstrom of fretwork.

For an encore, QOTSA began with light keys before Homme came out to sing the opening lines of …Like Clockwork’s title track.  Then Van Leeuwen walked on stage, followed by Shuman and drummer Jon Theodore.

“The whole idea is to make a night that no one ever forgets, but no one remembers,” Homme said matter-of-factly.

And the finale – “Song For the Deaf” – was perfect for that.  Not only was the hook head-noddingly absorbing, but the stop-and-start staccato that let Homme and Van Leewuen play off each other offered the perfect end to an evening.

Hard, fast and loud.  If you want to throw catchy in there, as well, then so be it.

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