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Queens of the Stone Age Bids Goodbye to the Gibson with Raucous Send-Off: Concert Review

Queens of the Stone Age live 2013 P
Rick Kosick

The Bottom Line

As a tribute to the soon-to-close amphitheater, which is being demolished to make way for a Harry Potter attraction, the California sludge rockers deliver their own brand of magic.

Venue

Gibson Amphitheater
Los Angeles
(Saturday, Aug. 17)

In many ways, Queens of the Stone Age’s two-hour performance at the Gibson Amphitheatre on Saturday night felt more like a raucous send-off to the venue than a celebration of the band's brand of fist-pumping sludge rock. That's because the shed formerly known as the Universal Amphitheatre will close in September to make way for a Universal Studios Harry Potter attraction, Although QOTSA’s set was not the room’s last (Pepe Aguilar’s Sept. 6 show is currently the final performance listed on the calendar), the band offered a far grander tribute than the venue probably deserves.

“This is actually one of my favorite venues in town,” QOTSA frontman Josh Homme told the audience partway through the set. “They’re gonna turn it into a Harry Potter -- don’t boo: My friend got a Harry Potter once and they cured it.” Before launching into Songs for the Deaf single “Go With the Flow,” Homme added, “This song -- no, it doesn’t go out to Harry Potter -- but if you believe in magic, it’s about magic.”

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He was joking, but on some level the band’s entire performance felt miraculous, a collaboration of perfectly executed elements. The music, ranging from surging opener “My God Is the Sun” to boisterous favorite “Little Sister” to dream-laden “Smooth Sailing,” was flawless, each song bolstered and driven by surging, twinging electric guitars. It was evidence that, as a rock band, Queens of the Stone Age have perfected their craft, honing in on their own desert rock aesthetic and doing it better than anyone else. The onstage visuals, projected on a screen that consumed the entire stage, augmented the music, lending a grandiose aesthetic to each track.

As the band hit the initial notes of “If I Had a Tail,” a track off Queens' latest album, …Like Clockwork, Homme said, “Here’s a song about where I wish I was.” The accompanying visuals, which are also the song's music video, revealed an animated journey into a shadowy underworld. The final shot of the video lands on a highway billboard that reads “The end is really fucking nigh.” Clever use of the video notwithstanding, the phrase also seemed to signify the impending demolition of the room itself.

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To that end, it’s always seemed strange to see rock bands like QOTSA inhabit the seated venue, with its red velour seats and arena-ready food vendors. It’s stranger still to push through a sea of tourists crowded outside Hot Topic and Bubba Gump Shrimp to arrive at a concert that seems to revile against such low-brow mediocrity. But seeing Homme and crew urge these fervent riffs from their instruments onstage is a reminder that it’s not necessarily about the room, but about what a band can do in that space.

After 17 songs, QOTSA bid the audience farewell before returning for a three-song encore. “This is it!” Homme shouted, encouraging the crowd to celebrate the end with the sentiment, “Whip out your dick, take out your vagina!” As the final notes of “A Song for the Dead” rang through the venue, there was a moment of palpable nostalgia. Or maybe just the dawning realization that while these music fans may be rid of CityWalk, next time QOTSA roll through town, they’ll probably be at the mercy of the equally corporate L.A. Live.

Set List:

My God is the Sun
You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
No One Knows
Burn the Witch
Monsters in the Parasol
Hangin’ Tree
Kalopsia
Long Slow Goodbye
…Like Clockwork
If I Had a Tail
Little Sister
Smooth Sailing
Make It Wit Chu
I Sat by the Ocean
Better Living Through Chemistry
Sick, Sick, Sick
Go With the Flow

Encore:

The Vampyre of Time and Memory
I Appear Missing
A Song for the Dead

Twitter: @THRMusic

Rick Kosick