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We Totally ♥ QOTSA

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 7, 2005 5:48PM

2005_10_qotsa_01.jpgYou know a band is cool when the lead singer, who happens to be a big time celebrity, crouches over a cheap PA sans soundman and adjusts all of the levels himself.

Queens Of the Stone Age rolled into Chicago a day early to play a “renegade” free show at Belmont Army Surplus in advance of their massive gig with Nine Inch Nails at Allstate Arena tonight. Early admittance was gained by a passel of local VIPs and Bar Stars™ who milled about the third floor gulping down free PBR and generally trying to outdo each other in the fine art or name dropping. On the sidewalk outside a few hundred folks who had secured "fan" wristbands earlier in the day waited patiently in the cold for the band to arrive.

After flight delays, traffic and just about every other physical manifestation of Murphy’s Law, Josh Homme and his band showed up and ran through a quick soundcheck on the second floor. Now picture this, on the third floor the VIPs are waiting (im)patiently to walk downstairs and grab prime real estate in front of the low stage. Outside fans brave the elements for a chance to see their heroes. Chicagoist and our photographer were smack dab in the middle roaming around the second floor and already documenting the evening’s events. What happened next was just totally awesome.

The band shut off the VIPs staircase and let the fans who had been waiting outside enter the room first, crowding around and sitting on the stage surrounding the band. Only after all the folks who had been waiting outside were settled were the VIPs allowed into the room. While this was going on Homme had already started up the playful banter with the crowd that would go on for the rest of the evening and hinted at just how much he enjoyed playing to an audience he could actually interact with.

2005_10_qotsa_02.jpgThe set-up was mostly acoustic but that didn’t stop the band from opening with a ripping version of “Monsters In The Parasol” that threatened to turn the wooden instruments being manhandled on-stage into so many toothpicks. After the brief quip, “Welcome to VH1 Storytellers…and I’m R Kelly.” Homme kicked off the snakey grooves of “Give the Mule What he Wants” and “Leg Of Lamb.”

In-between songs Homme obviously delighted in talking to the folks huddled around him. When someone asked if he was on MySpace Homme asked, “Where’s your space? I don’t get it.” A young lady in huge pink heart earrings held up a picture of Homme from a fashion mag and he beamed, “Hey, that’s me!” before kind of frowning and saying, “I don’t photograph well, do I?”

A highlight of the set was a reworked version of “Regular John” off the band’s debut. Its stoner rock riffage was transformed into an urgent muted scratching on the guitar’s strings before blossoming into the crescendo of chords that cap off each verse and then exploding into the chorus.

The evening wasn’t without its hiccups. At one point someone actually stepped on a cord and shut off the entire sound system by accident. Homme called a huge “party foul” and insisted it was made all the worse since he was about to rip into an "awesome solo" and was now the victim of “stylus interruptus.” The crowd laughed and Homme insisted that, “the moment is not lost though” as the band picked right up where they had dropped off.

The crowd was extremely friendly with a majority of folks sitting on the floor enraptured by their proximity to the band. We did feel a little sorry for the one goth new-wavey girl stuck in front of the hippy-dancing couple at the crest of the standing portion of the room though. That couldn’t have been fun. For the most part though everyone, even the VIPs who didn’t exactly get VIP seating, obviously had a terrific time.

The evening drew to a close with a massive shouting match between audience members over what the final song should be. Homme seemed genuinely confused and then fell back on a joke that had surfaced throughout the evening by asking for requests and then saying, “Oh, right…we don’t do requests.” A tapping “woodblock” – that was actually plastic in the interest of volume control -- signaled the intro to “Little Sister” and three furious minutes later the eleven-song show was over.

Homme stuck around for a long time after the gig and posed with everyone that wanted photos and signed anything folks wanted autographed. For a reputation as one of the supposedly "bad" boys in rock Homme’s demeanor throughout the entire evening did nothing to suggest he was anything but a really nice, witty dude who happens to be insanely talented and writes some great -- yet wondrously weird -- songs that have surprisingly been embraced by a mainstream audience.

Queens Of The Stone Age play tonight at the Allstate Arena with Nine Inch Nails and even though we tend to shy away from shows in huge venues we totally think you should not miss this one.


All photos © Diann Nails 2005