JOSH Homme never seems to work particularly hard. There’s little strain when he’s belting out crowd pleaser No-One Knows several songs into Queens of the Stone Age’s second ever show in Newcastle.
There’s even less when he offers up insights about the city (and how we’re a little more straight-laced than Darwin, but only a little), and almost none when he’s pouring out riffs and licks that sound like old blues records baked in the hot desert sun.
When you’re this good, you probably don’t need to break too much of a sweat.
A Song for the Deaf thumps out as an opener, one of the earliest cuts to feature on a setlist that leans heavily on last album Villains. It’s a testament to the band’s clear drive that the songs lock together, bleeding between albums to solidify as a phalanx of relentless rock songs.
- READ MORE: What’s On in Newcastle
Past shows on these shores have often felt like the accelerator was locked to the floor, with tempos pushed and front rows heaving, but Homme and co. are in a reflective mood as they hit Newcastle’s “gym”, with the band leader expounding at length on all that comes to mind.
He talks about leaving something important behind, but all that remains after more than an hour is scorched earth and a sweaty mass of even more fervent fans.
Few of Homme’s loquacious comments lend themselves to print, but there’s an earnestness to his banter that sometimes leads it to go a little long. He knows it, too, but he doesn’t care – he knows what’s coming over the almost two-hour set.
He coos over the million dollar riff of The Evil Has Landed, wails through encore A Song for the Dead and lurches through Smooth Sailing. He never wavers, but he doesn’t work too hard either. From I Wanna Make It Wid Chu to Little Sister, the demeanor is the same. The musicianship is expert.
The crowd is enraptured, greeting the opening bars of new tracks The Way You Used To Do and Head Like a Haunted House like old friends.
Songs come complete with cigarette breaks, half-finished tough sticks thrown over his shoulder when it’s time to play again.
For whatever has changed in terms of intensity, it’s covered in the pure commitment of the band – they flaunt their tightness in stop-start roarers like You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I feel like a Millionaire and rarely put a foot wrong.
The lights start strong, with competing strobes twitching the band through the early numbers, but it falls away as the big songs lock into place. By the end, Homme has gone from tampering with the noodle-like light poles scattered across the stage to tearing down fixtures.
- READ MORE: Music and gigs
As the crowd filters out, there are the usual they-didn’t-play grumbles. But the variety among them is proof that the band could play twice as long, hit half as many highlights and most would still leave happy. Few volunteer to nominate a song that could have been dropped.
Any band who can leave Burn The Witch, 3s and 7s and Feelgood Hit of the Summer in the kit bag is worthy of respect.
“I cannot be killed,” Homme warns late in the piece, hitting a Jesus Christ pose with his signature half-sneer.
The thing is, after tonight you wouldn’t bet against him.
While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.