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Rock'n'Fkn'Roll: Queens Of The Stone Age at TSB Arena, Wellington 1/3/24

Queens of the Stone Age live onstage in Wellington

On 1st March this year, I got to see Queens of the Stone Age again for the second time after first seeing them in Melbourne on the Era Vulgaris tour in 2008. The last time I had been to a big gig in Wellington’s TSB Arena was the Chili Peppers in 1996 and I was a little worried, having heard more than one horror story about how bad the sound can be in that space. But I needn’t have feared as the sound was excellent - big and clear but not ear-drum-brutalisingly-loud.

The show kicked off with Wellington’s Earth Tongue who dropped 30 mins of their hypnotic riffage. Despite their heaviness and driving rhythms, there are some folk horror-type melodies with the dual vocals, which reminded me of a doomy Wicker Man. Loved them.

Australia’s POND came on next and kicked out some poppy psych jams that took me a while to warm to. But they won me over by the end of the set - they sounded great, singer Nick Allbrook is a delightful nutter and they made for a good break between the two heavier bands. I reckon they would go off at 10 pm at an outdoor festival.

Josh Homme and co swaggered onto stage just after 9 pm and launched into Regular John, the opener to their self-titled album from 1998, its driving one-chord riffage a perfect way to set things off. No One Knows came next, an inspired choice to drop arguably their best-known track so early and get the crowd bouncing. From there the band delved back through their history, offering 5 tracks from In Times New Roman, and a couple from every album prior. And while there are always songs I would have liked to hear, the set was so well chosen and performed, it would be near impossible for anyone to go home disappointed.

The band walk that wonderful line of being simultaneously tight and loose - the rhythm section of Jon Theordore (drums) and Michael Shuman (bass) in lockstep so Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen (the bands secret weapon) and Dean Fertita could layer their riffs, solos and synths over the top. If Homme missed the start of a verse it didn’t matter, he didn’t care and neither did we. The frontman seems a lot more relaxed and gregarious than he has in the past - the former sneering, photographer-kicking bad boy has come out the other side of some tough years stronger and genuinely grateful to be doing what he’s doing. He invited everyone to get loose and have a good time and we did.

Surrounded by a truly impressive pyramid lighting rig, the band gave us two hours of rock’n’roll goodness, with hits and deep cuts a plenty. Queens ended as they always do with A Song For the Dead, possibly the greatest set closer song ever (from any band), as it launches into driving riffage before slowing down and then taking off again and devolving into a delicious white noise squall with Homme and Van Leeuwen torturing their guitars beneath the strobing lights. A brilliant show all around.

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