Queens of the Stone Age Brings Raw Fury to Forest Hills Stadium at Rousing New York Stop: Concert Review

Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme has faced many demons since the release of the 2017 album “Villains”: cancer, divorce, rehab and court battles. And the new Queens record, the just-released “In Times New Roman…,” definitely adds weight to the band’s woozy, bluesy rock — a dour energy far removed from the dancier sound conjured by producer Mark Ronson on “Villains.”

“Roman,” self-produced by band founder Homme and one of his strongest QOTSA lineups ever, is one of the rawest and heaviest albums the band has delivered, and during Saturday’s Queens, New York stop of their “The End Is Nero Tour,” they proved that sometimes the new material can be a live standout, even as the band approaches its fourth decade of existence.

Backing Homme on “Roman” and the tour are longtime guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, who has been in the group since 2002, bassist Michael Shuman and keyboard player Dean Fertita, who both joined in 2007, and ex-Mars Volta drumming phenom Jon Theodore. Part of the appeal of QOTSA’s music is their ability to hold a tight grip on the rhythm of their stomping guitar anthems, and the band’s playing matches up powerfully with Theodore’s work behind the kit. And being the drummer in this band is no easy feat.

Ever since Homme’s good friend Dave Grohl filled in as the drummer on QOTSA’s signature 2002 album “Songs for the Deaf,” he inadvertently set expectations sky-high for the role. After all, Grohl’s highest-profile return to the kit since Nirvana and early Foo Fighters albums was explosive, and his performances on tracks like “A Song for the Dead” are regularly performed by drummers on TikTok to prove their chops.

Theodore is the second post-Grohl drummer in the band, and while his style with the proggy Mars Volta was maximalist, he lives in the pocket for Homme’s more straightforward songwriting, harnessing the power and drive to leave even the drunkest bro in the crowd dancing at Forest Hills Stadium.

And dance they did, as Homme possesses the dual gift of not only writing crunchy riffs but smart pop hooks, and leading singalongs with sometimes deceptively sweet vocals. About a third of the setlist consisted of “Roman” songs, including standouts like the grimy chords of first single “Emotion Sickness,” a kiss-off to an ex with a chorus featuring smooth ’70s radio harmonies and slide guitar; Homme’s low-register vocals on the riffy, death-confronting “Carnavoyeur”; and the start-and-stop flash of “Paper Machete,” which recalls their earlier work supplemented by a wall of guitar drone. The band’s intensity and drive during the new stuff locked the crowd in just as intensely as the old hits, which speaks well to the shelf life of “Roman.”

Beyond new material, QOTSA filled their setlist with songs from “Deaf,” their 2013 fan-favorite “…Like Clockwork” and a handful of other hits. The group blazed through this well-worn material, keeping the groove rolling along on rock chart risers like “No One Knows,” “Little Sister” and “The Way You Used to Do” and deeper cuts like “If I Had a Tail” and the psychedelic “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

Beyond their musicianship, the band’s stage antics created as much as to look at as the dramatic lighting rigs. For the first stretch, the guys were all business, headbanging and throwing guitars around, perfecting rock star swagger. But as their set went on they loosened up, allowing for some great squealing guitar solos, crowd participation like in an extended “Make It Wit Chu,” and plenty of room for Homme’s genial stage banter, regularly encouraging the audience to dance and screw in equal measure.

At this point in his career, Homme’s biggest issue playing live is his catalogue is too consistent and deep. The hits must be played, but fans can only dream of a sweaty club night crammed with old songs and B-sides. But as one of the few bands still carrying the torch of hard-living rock ‘n’ roll, it’s hard to imagine asking any more from Queens of the Stone Age.

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