Photos by Steve Hatley
“What I love about New Orleans is that whatever is happening in the rest of the country isn’t happening here,” Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age proclaimed, early on in the electrifying two-hour-and-15-minute set Friday night at the Saenger Theatre. It’s always something really special when you see one of the all-time favorite bands live, and like myself, I’m sure many people walked out thinking they had just been presented with one of the best, most high-energy shows they’d ever witnessed. The show, which had a slightly late start for the Saenger, opened with a gorgeously layered light show that highlighted the most extreme moments of the band’s catalogue, while also complementing the lower, more earthy elements that the band is able to segue to and from with effortless ease.
The first two songs of the evening, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” and “The Way You Used to Do,” both showcased the newest album from the five-piece, but it was the meat and potatoes of the set that really demonstrated how much material the band is able to pull from. Virtually every show this tour has been drastically different from the previous one, but when you’re on tour, playing long and intense shows every night, you need variety to keep things fresh. I honestly wish more bands did this as opposed to the same 15 or so songs every night. Of course, many of the band’s fans discovered them with their breakout third album single “No one Knows,” and with the song’s placement in the first 30 or so minutes of the evening, you could tell the band was ready to rumble and explode. The lights—to dizzying effect during the more intense moments—perfectly reflected Queens’s ability to sway and present a sold-out crowd with a production that only seemed to enhance every moment, whether its effect was to have you rocking out without much care, or to make more nuanced moments shine like you wouldn’t expect.
Much like the crowd reaction to “No One Knows,” Homme, joined by Dean, Troy, Michael, and Jon Theodore on drums, displayed nearly all of the band’s best-known tracks with the sort of immediacy that you expect from a band this potent. They also surprised the crowd with many more rare and deep cuts, like the winding “You Can’t Quit Me Baby,” the introspective, longing courtesy of “I Sat by the Ocean,” and the rarely played classic “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret.”
It’s always great when a band does something unexpected, and even beyond the song selection, the guest spots provided enjoyment. Bobby Rush, at nearly 88 years old and armed with a harmonica and a swagger to him that is enviable, joined the band for the rocking, thumping “Burn the Witch,” and the crooning “Make It Wit Chu.” And Jack Shears, who’s apparently from Broadway, added a nervous yet seductive aura to “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.” In these moments, every person on stage was at top form, and it showed just how much fun they were having.
Towards the conclusion of the evening, the band seemed to step up the energy with each passing song. “Little Sister,” followed by the widely loved “Go with the Flow,” concluded the main set, but with an encore featuring the one-two closing punch of “Head like a Haunted House” and the bomb that is “Song for the Dead,” it's hard to walk away from that feeling like you didn’t get your money's worth with a little extra on the side. A truly captivating and intensely enjoyable evening. It’s not to be missed if you get the chance, but get tickets as soon as possible, because they go fast.