Queens Of The Stone Age

support Band Of Skulls
author TL date 29/11/13 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

It's a Friday night and the weather is flat out depressing as AP and I make our way to Forum to see Queens Of The Stone Age - a band whose many great songs have allowed the music scene at large to catch sight of the desert- and stoner rock genres. Going here means a big show, a distinct experience from most others by the way only fifty percent of the gathered audience will actually be enjoying the performance at any given moment, while the remaining half will be either talking, smoking weed, checking facebook, going to the bathroom, going to the bar or maybe just looking for their friends in the crowd. Fortunately only a small minority are occupied with trying to record songs on their smartphones, which suggests that Danish Queens Of The Stone Age fans are mostly cooler than to have jumped this pointless concert trend; I mean let's be honest, did your video turn out well? No? Didn't think so. While mostly too cool for that however, tonight's QOTSA crowd isn't overwhelmingly numerous, as the show isn't even close enough to sold out for Forum's balconies to be open, and I reckon the ground floor is only at around half capacity when support act Band Of Skulls take the stage:

Full galleries from both sets available at kennyswan.dk

Band Of Skulls

Being the support band at any show of this size is perhaps the most ungrateful type of show you can play, what with the sound being echo-y, the lightshow being lacklustre and with the crowd mostly not really caring about you. Still, if you've read anything I've written on this site about Southampton trio Band Of Skulls you'll know that they're awesome, and hence I've been looking forward to seeing them even in these less than optimal circumstances. Appearing on form, the band opens up with their new single "Asleep At The Wheel", looking cool as usual and seemingly unphased by the mercilessly bright spots that bathe the stage in light, confidently starting to let their insistent rock'n'roll beats go to work on the audience.

Band Of Skulls bassist/singer Emma Richardson

Employing mostly the more upbeat of their material in form of "The Devil Takes Care Of His Own", "You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On" and "I Know What I Am", the band slowly attracts the attention of spread out pockets of audience members, frankly seeming like they'll be damned if such a thing as a huge and mostly anemic crowd is going to make them look uncomfortable on stage. Singer/guitarist Russell Marsden casually gets the pleasantries off between songs, while brandishing his instrument animatedly when the music is actually on. "Bruises" makes an appearance and the set ends with "Light Of The Morning", the start-stop action of which combines with a suddenly awakened light show to extend the band's reach a few more rows back. Naturally you can't quite say that the band got any sort of a party started in an audience that was content to just stand back and swig beer at this point, but I get the feeling that they may have piqued the interested of more than a few, and for me personally, I can't wait for their upcoming third album to hopefully bring them back for a show that's more on their terms.

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Queens Of The Stone Age

After roughly thirty minutes of changeover time, QOTSA appear on stage to generous applause and get right to business immediately with hit songs "Millionaire" and "No One Knows". Any way you slice it, it demonstrates boldness on the band's part to start with the "Songs For The Deaf" classics, both because it serves instant gratification to the fans with no build-up, but also because there's never a way to know if your mix is properly adjusted in your first song, and especially the vocals in "Millionaire" sound off, like iconic frontman Josh Homme is experiencing such a mundane problem as a low monitor presence.

Things are soon adjusted properly though, and though we suffer a power outage in the middle of "My God Is The Sun" which the band plays through while the audience can only hear the whisper of their monitors, things proceed relatively well - if a bit quiet - for the echoing Forum, after the electricity returns. In fact, while "Burn The Witch" and "3's & 7's" keep the hit quality streaming steadily from the stage, I'm tempted to say they proceed a bit mechanically. Homme admits to the band being at a tired stage of the current tour, yet elegantly ties the confession to a tip-of-the-hat to the audience, insisting that we're to thank for making them feel good despite the wear and tear: "This one is a song about people who aren't in this room. It's called "Fairweather Friends"".

Main man Josh Homme at work

While a handful of lesser known newer songs - "... Like Clockwork", "Turnin' On The Screw" and "If I Had A Tail" among others - hold up the set's midsection, you clearly feel that this is a show that crests in the hit singles and noticeably lulls in songs like these. To the band's credit, they've brought along a massive LED screen, flanked by pillars of light flashing in different colours, that has various trippy cinematics running behind the band to keep things interesting. It's something, but in honest it's no substitution for the absent feeling of really getting closer to the band, which could have maybe been bolstered if the screen had occasionally featured some close-up footage of the band members that most of us can only barely make out from a distance.

Massive screen behind the band

This technique is never employed however, and instead we get an animated river of blood streaking across the background with skulls floating in it, and artful silhouettes of sculpturesque female bodies with faces obscured either by smoke or, somewhat strangely, by the images of various celestial bodies (the sun and the earth among others). It's something to look at, and admittedly Josh Homme is grooving comfortably about the stage, pulling his Elvis-inspired moves with casual routine, but the show feels just like that - a well-rehearsed routine - and apart from him taking the time to introduce his bandmembers by name, we are treated to few other attempts to meet the challenge of a big show like this, which is to make the performance connect with the audience and making everyone feel present despite the hugeness of the circumstances.

Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen rocking the double guitar

Despite scattered highs like the renditions of "Little Sister", "Make It Wit Chu" and "Sick, Sick, Sick" then, the set has some considerable bland stretches, making it a bit of a relief when we make it to the encore around the two hour mark. Piano chords are allowed a rare dominance in the band's soundscape on the mellow "The Vampyre Of Time And Memory" before "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer" serves up the last portion of single power and gets the closest to livening up the whole audience that we've been since "No One Knows". Finally the slow-burning "I Appear Missing" is allowed to patiently descend - as a bandaged figure falls and falls and falls eternally on the big screen - into the headbanging romp of "Song For The Dead", which salutes the band's loyal fans before sending them back into the rainy November night and signing off on a performance that was mostly solid overall, yet never really sparked the kind of elated and explosive experience you really hope for, when you head out to see a band with as much excellent material as QOTSA have.

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