Queens of the Stone Age is one of those bands that’s loved by just about everyone in the industry, as well as by lots of other musicians, many of whom turned out for this show. But love and respect from the in-crowd — none of whom pay for their tickets or CDs — has never translated into broader success for this group, as evidenced by their disappointing turn on last summer’s OzzFest tour, not to mention the flat sales (less than 85,000 units sold, according to SoundScan) of their well-reviewed year-old second album.
At the first of two sellout El Rey shows, the psychedelic-tinged desert dwellers played intelligent, riff-heavy hard rock with occasional elements of blues, punk, grunge, surf, metal (a la Black Sabbath) and pop folded into the mix. Much of the material was taken from last year’s hit-and-miss “R” (Interscope).
QSA’s sound is more mellow and melodic than was Kyuss, the Inland Empire band that spawned Queens in the late ’90s. Much like Kyuss, however, these guys come off like a band not quite in step with the times; the photo of a smiling Brian Wilson taped onto an amp shows their collective heart is in the right place.
Singer-guitarist Josh Homme was an engaging presence during energetic tunes such as “Better Living Through Chemistry,” which rode along on a steady and hypnotic guitar line, and the frantic “Quick and To the Pointless.” But “Monsters in the Parasol,” which featured “R” producer (and former Masters of Reality frontman) Chris Goss on vocals, and “Leg of Lamb,” which sported a curiously twisted guitar solo, sounded a bit too dated for their own good.
Show, which clocked in at about 100 minutes, peaked during a mid-set guest appearance by former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, who also sings on QSA’s latest album. His and Homme’s vocals blended beautifully during the excellent “Auto Pilot,” while Lanegan’s whiskey-soaked voice sparkled during the muscular “In the Fade.”
Lanegan also made a second, crowd-pleasing visit to the stage for the last two of four encore songs, including a roof-raising take on ZZ Top’s funkafied 1973 track “Precious & Grace.”