I went and saw Queens of the Stone Age this past Tuesday with my friends Davy, Jess and Robyn. I took work off for the occasion.
Davy and Jess got married last month after nine years of dating. They bought a nice house on Joy Rd. in Livonia last year and own a puggle named Cardboard. Robyn moved to Arizona three years ago. She works as a hairdresser and is dating a guy who races BMX bikes and gives the finger in all of her Snapchats.
I drive all of us down to the Fox and we get there around 8. The lines are out the front door but only to the curb. We get in and stand in another line for some booze. We all get a 7 and 7. We can hear Royal Blood playing through the walls.
The Fox Theater is enormous and reminds me of a circus bigtop. Everything is red and gold and there are carved faces all over the walls. I saw the Rockettes here when I was a kid and the Pixies in 2011.
We climb three flights of stairs up to the balcony. It takes us a minute to find our seats because the lights are all out and Royal Blood is doing an extended jam version of their hit “Out of the Black” with white lights blasting into the audience. We finally ask a surly female usher for guidance and she leads us to the proper place — about halfway up the balcony, which is so steep it almost feels like we’re sitting on a slanted wall.
I’ve never been up on the balcony and the immensity of the domed theater and the giant globe light dangling from its center is so impressive that I think it would’ve given me anxiety had I not been sober. Over 5,000 seats in this place, the largest surviving movie palace from the 1920’s. I’d love to see a movie at the Fox.
Royal Blood finishes as Robyn and Jess go to pee, and Davy is disappointed that we’ve missed their set. A list of set times from an earlier show said that they wouldn’t be on until 8, and it’s only 8:18. We later discover they went on at 7:30, well before we even arrived at the theater.
“That’s a kick in the nuts,” grumbles Davy. He’s about 5'7'’ and broad-shouldered with curly black hair that’s down to his ass and a black neckbeard that makes him look like a Viking warrior. He plays metal guitar in bands called Two Neck Noose and Berserkules. We sip our 7 and 7 and watch a sinister mist drift off the stage as roadies move Royal Blood’s equipment away.
Robyn and Jess return and we sit there until the Queens finally appear in darkness while a vaudevillian song plays over the loudspeakers. The stage is set up with these vertical tubes of light that change color and wave around like cattails when Josh and the guys walk past them.
Josh Homme, the Ginger Elvis himself, takes the mic and murmurs greetings. The only thing I can make out is “Detroit” and “We’re gonna have a good time the whole time”.
With that, they launch into “If I Had a Tail” and we’re off to the races.
I’ve seen a lot of bands in my time, and a lot of those bands have been quite loud. Rock music, when it’s done correctly, should be god-like in its announcement of itself. You should feel as though you’re standing in the presence of something immense and terrible, challenging but ultimately benevolent. U2 does it. The Pixies do it. Soundgarden did it. I’d imagine all the greats — everyone from Nirvana to Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones in their prime — did it. And now I can say Queens of the Stone Age do it.
They were positively thunderous, I tell you. I took my earplugs out — this was worth damaging my hearing for. I think the acoustics of the theater had something to do with it, but their precision and boom was enough to make even a slouch like me feel sexy just for being in the same room with it. It was almost as if their sound itself was a weapon. Sheer concentrated volume. Raw power you could feel in your chest. It sounds overly exultant, but at times it felt as though their interlocking vibrations could light the city of Detroit itself and hold the very universe together.
Josh is thoroughly entertaining, getting more and more inebriated as the night goes on, smoking his cigarettes onstage and reveling in his smart-ass gunslinger persona. He introduces keyboardist/guitarist Dean Fertita, who’s from Detroit, like seven times throughout the night. He continuously asks us if we’re having a good time. We are.
Josh gives a couple rambling speeches, one before Domesticated Animals in which he tells everyone that he doesn’t want us to have to live in a cage, and the other before Go With the Flow where he says pretty much the same thing. We all live in a cage, Josh, one way or another. Appreciate the sentiment, though. He congratulates Detroit on getting its shit together in recent years.
Highlights of the set include The Way You Used To Do, You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire, No One Knows, Mexicola (which hadn’t been performed live since 2014 according to setlist.fm), I Sat By the Ocean, Make It Wit Chu, and A Song for the Dead, which they close their encore with. The main set is closed with Go With the Flow.
The lighting is mostly pointed at the audience, scorching our retinas, and the Queens play most their set shrouded in shadow and smoke. I get a clear look at them maybe twice in the two and a half hours they’re onstage.
The show is a solid 8 or 9 out of 10 overall. It almost never drags. Only when the Queens do a trio of slower songs that I’m not familiar with (“It’s gonna get dark for awhile,” says Josh at the beginning. “There’s no way out… no way out.”) do I look at my phone and discover they’ve already been on for nearly two hours. Later, I find out the songs are Fortress, I Appear Missing, and Villains of Circumstance. Then they play Little Sister and have my attention again.
So that’s the account. They come, they play, and they leave — off to Indianapolis next. My friends and I do the usual shoulder-to-shoulder shuffle out of the theater and onto the street with the rest of the nobodies. I spot the guitarist from my first two bands — Ryan Cody — in the parking garage stairwell. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in six years, and it’s good to see him. He’s married now with two kids and a house. He briefly meets Davy and we chat for about two minutes. He’s parked on level 5 and we’re on level 6. I tell him to take care. He’s not on Facebook (props) and I don’t have his number, so I don’t know when I’ll see him again.
The four of us stop at Honest John’s in midtown for sandwiches before heading back to Davy and Jess’s. It’s a good night. Much better than sitting at work.