Last Night: Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys at Verizon Wireless Theater

QOTSA, two days earlier at ACL Fest.
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Queens of the Stone Age, with the Arctic Monkeys September 17, 2007 Verizon Wireless Theater

Better Than: Watching Two and Half Men re-runs with Mom.

Download: QOTSA’s version of Tom Waits’s “Goin’ Out West”

Some bands stay a single cohesive unit for decades. They can come on to a scene and become part of your family for years. You never imagine one band member without the others. Kind of like how you can’t rightfully think of Keith not playing back to back with Mick. Still others can just use band members once and destroy, like trading unwanted players off a fantasy football team. Queens of the Stone Age are one of those, except that members come and go freely and amicably. No one suffers. Listeners get to hear what happens when master musicians sit in a room and coalesce. Leader Josh Homme, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo have remained the only permanent players since 2003.

QOTSA opened Monday nights set with “You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel like a Millionaire,” the lead track of 2002’s Songs for the Deaf. This was a welcome if wholly expected choice. This was one of former bassist Nick Oliveri’s signature songs. In fact, he performs it nightly with his band Mondo Generator. The two new band members, multi-tasker Dean Fertita and bassist Michael Shuman bring a broodingly buoyant sound to an already corrosively tight group.

“Misfit Love” is one of those deceptively bouncy songs off of this year’s Era Vulgaris that becomes just this molten piece of rock in a live setting. Each time I have seen this one trotted out live, QOTSA throws in new elements, each time embellishing a riff until it ventures of somewhere unexpected. Tonight, the opening becomes an electric dirge, full of mechanic twitches and an R&B bass run. "Make It Wit Chu," meanwhile is the where babies come from. It’s all falsetto, hips, whips and shivers with the one you lust.

Opening the bill was the Arctic Monkeys. Seeing these British boys go from rosy-cheeked, fresh-scrubbed teens to world-weary rock stars in just over a year has been exciting. The first time they came through Houston, they were very regimented and snapped in, with a near robotic delivery. This time around, they showed flourishes of an expansiveness that dare say, brings to mind the likes of Cream. The garage-songs from 2005 are now bruising bust-ups, with a road-tested muscularity. Lead singer Alex Turner has grown into a fine, if not altogether silent, frontman. Now, it’s just up to them to keep the hype behind them at arm’s length. And maybe stay away from rock operas and the nose candy.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I have a man-crush on lead singer Josh Homme that is so intense that it makes mother scared that she will never be a grandmother.

Random Detail: Rock crowds in major, corporate-owned venues don’t know how to dance. Someone needs to teach a class or something. Just because a song is long and has power chords, we don’t have to re-enact the pit scenes from a Hatebreed video.

By the way: I almost bought a pair of the black “I’m Vulgaris” underwear that was on sale at the QOTSA merch booth. Ok, you got me. I’m wearing them right now....mmmm, snug. – Craig Hlavaty

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