The posh, velvet seats and ribbed halls of the Florida Theatre might not have seemed like the ideal setting for stoner-rock quintet Queens of the Stone Age Feb. 3. Tufts of beard with residue of cheap ale hung plentifully over tattooed throats and secondhand shirts as fans crowded into carpeted aisles, anticipation and unextinguished tobacco palpable in the air.
When a 60-second countdown led into the simmering, adrenaline-drenched riff of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire,” it was clear the once-assigned seats would serve no further purpose.
The top balcony stood and gathered at the rails. Hands and fists and drinks raised into the air. Queens of the Stone Age had a rock and roll show on their hands.
And that’s just where they wanted it. There’s no smoke and mirrors to the band’s stage presence — it’s hard-hitting drums, overdriven guitars and plain, old-fashioned style. They used stop-and-go rhythms often to keep listeners on their toes, waiting for applause to start before pummeling the audience with an additional few measures.
The theater screen behind the band showed images that might not surprise you — but ones you could never really predict — from stoner rock, including a crow pecking the gizzards out of a bandaged man and bare-breasted ladies with exploding planets for faces. The theatrics helped set the tone, but most of the audience’s focus fell on singer Josh Homme’s tequila-lubed dance grooves and loose guitar playing; both only got groovier and looser as the over two-hour set wore on.
Much of Homme’s charm seems to come from being one with the crowd. He’s accessible. He takes drags from his cigarette and croons a verse on the exhale. When he drops his guitar pick, he just squats down and picks it up. He has a one-sided chat with an audience member about penis length between songs, outstretching his arm as means of reference.
After security pulled a fan out of the show, Homme reproached the theater staff, telling them to “chill out.”
“We’re all adults here. We’re having a good time. We don’t need our parents here to tell us what to do,” Homme said before kicking into “Fair Weather Friend.”
The band played incredibly tight. Troy Van Leeuwen alternated between (somehow) shaking a maraca with angst and ripping solos out of a Stairway to Heaven style double-neck guitar on “My God is the Sun.” Even on slower, brooding songs, drummer Jon Theodore played almost punishingly loud — he had to change a snare drum around the middle of the set. Dean Fertita’s keyboard playing added layers and depth to the head banging fare.
After telling the audience that they had made a “Florida believer” out of him, Homme and the queens delivered a three-song encore, consisting of extended versions of “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” “I Appear Missing” and “Song for the Dead.” Each song could have been an encore on its own, with roller-coaster buildups into crescendos that slowed down into dance breaks only to speed back up again.
After this, Queens of the Stone Age bid the Florida Theatre goodnight, not goodbye. They left their audience with a set many will remember the next time they come to town.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Homme said to the audience. “Making a night you won’t ever forget.”