Queens Of The Stone Age in 3Arena, Dublin, on 24 November 24 2017
There are generally a few ways to gauge how successful a gig is in the moment. There’s the audience for one, the buzz in the room; an image of a crowd-surfed leg swinging in a silhouetted arc in front of the stage. There’s the band’s enjoyment of the performance, and of the fans – something that can be vocalised but rarely faked.
And then, at certain shows, it’s by the amount of inflated rubber johnnies being batted around in the crowd. Tonight, my friends, there were three. THREE! A triptych of blimp-like prophylactics bobbing benignly along with the band. Whether the result of one fan’s sacrifice or the contributions of a few we may never know, but there is one absolute certainty – three is the magic number, and Queens Of The Stone Age earned each and every one of those johnnies.
Tonight is the last night of the European tour and Josh Homme is in fine fettle, extolling the virtues of Dublin via the usual platitudes and a cheeseburger-based anecdote about the fastest drunk person he’s ever met (“If he’s here tonight…I’ll suck your dick”). It’s been a while since the band’s last visit and a sold-out 3Arena provides the usual whinge material – massive queues to get in, massive queues for a pint, massive queues for a piss – but when If I Had A Tail blares in over the intro track it’s all eyes to the front. There are no big screens; no visuals and no theatrics, just a five-strong band with charisma to burn.
They steamroll through three numbers before Homme salutes the city and the crowd. Multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita emerges from behind the keys to add an extra bit of muscle on guitar to The Way You Used To Do, preceded by Homme’s manifesto for the evening (“We came to dance, to drink, and maybe to get everyone laid“). It’s during those three-guitar affronts that the set is at its most robust, and every so often one of the players collides with the free-standing columns of light that surround them onstage, knocking them askew.
“I wanna fuckin’ dance, man…so let’s dance” says Homme, as the set unravels from the full-on rout of You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire and the sweet, bludgeoning repetition of Regular John, to the bluesy solo that meanders through Make It Wit Chu and the slow burn of Villains of Circumstance. The latter cut from their latest ‘Villains’ record seems lightweight in the context of this set, and momentum falters over these songs, but a crackling Little Sister immediately resets the balance.
It’s little surprise that the ‘Songs For The Deaf’ material still hits the sweetest spot. The audience sings the riff to No One Knows until the guitar solo eventually descends onto a mire of noise, and the band leaves space for the first of two drum solos of considerable heft from John Theodore. He pummels his kit towards the song’s interlude, where Homme takes the opportunity to bring the cavernous 3Arena closer together (“Fuck the rest of the world, fuck ’em all!”) before everyone barrels back in for the coda.
A Song For The Dead takes a similar tack to close the night out. Theodore’s skin-rattling comes to the fore once again, before another interlude, a noisy wind-down, and a surprise false ending for good measure. In lesser hands, this is dangerous territory (two drum solos for fuck sake), but it’s all good – we’re in the company of one of the finest contemporary exponents of hard rock here.
Anyway, on a rubber johnny scale – with no rubber johnnies being the worst and three being the best – this was a three rubber, two drum solo, only one fucking Queens Of The Stone Age rock-out.