Music

Queens of the Stone Age review: Saving lives with joyous mayhem

In a night of high emotion and extreme cool, Queens of the Stone Age bring their The End is Nero tour to Glasgow's OVO Hydro.

Queens of the Stone Age live in Glasgow on their The End is Nero tour 2023

Queens of the Stone Age live in Glasgow on their The End is Nero tour 2023. Photo: Laura Kelly

“Love hard,” induces Queens of the Stone Age’s swaggering frontman Josh Homme. “Fight hard. Be yourself.” With this formula, the Elvis-hipped seducer holds all the explosive, limb-flailing, Saturday-night-in-Glasgow chaos in the palm of his hand.

Before QOTSA even take the OVO Hydro stage for the only Scottish stop on their The End is Nero tour, the room already feels like a tinder box. London-based, all-female post punk trio Deep Tan have unnerved and provoked with brooding bass and crystalline guitar licks that evoke the more threatening end of The B-52’s. Aussie lads The Chats, by profound contrast, are all obnoxious energy, their straight-ahead punk whipping Glasgow into such a frenzy that violence seems all but inevitable.

Then Queens of the Stone Age open by lobbing a one-two grenade of No One Knows and The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret. Some of the sweaty young topless men I collide with during the ensuing joyous mayhem can surely have not born when these immense stompers first cemented Homme and co. at the pinnacle of rock, but we’re all swept up just the same. And something strange has happened. Where before, the energy prickled with danger, now it’s shifted to grinning mosh exuberance – “love hard”, indeed.

It’s a bold move to start with a song as genuinely iconic as No One Knows, with its two-decade-long place as a rock club floor filler, but in no way have Queens of the Stone Age peaked too early. The loose-limbed Smooth Sailing and the wound spring of My God Is the Sun ratchet us up through the gears in preparation for the first of tonight’s forays into new album In Times New Roman…

Emotion Sickness has been in heavy rotation on alternative radio since it was released in May, and it’s clearly been taken to heart. It finishes with an a cappella sing-off as the Hydro bellows, “Baby don’t care for me, had to let her go.”

Homme’s been through the mill since the last time he graced a Glasgow stage, surviving a bad divorce and treatment for cancer. It adds a frisson to his eagerness to demonstrate gratitude for all the love in the room. “You,” he beams, “have got to be the loudest motherfuckers on this whole tour.”

Halfway through explaining how bad he is at love, Homme looks down to spot a young boy hollering from his perch on his dad’s shoulders. “That’s my boy,” he says. “I love that.” The crowd parts to allow the father and son to reach the front and an exchange of mutual appreciation follows. “I love you! You saved my life!” hollers the dad. “You saved mine too,” Homme replies, before turning to the boy. “Son, tonight you become a fucking man. So let’s dance.” We can only presume the tiny fan and his dad made it out of the seething mosh pit alive.

By the time we reach the pillow talk of Make It wit Chu, we’ve all been through some stuff together. Cigarette in hand, Homme has all the ladies sing backup vocals. “What about the blokes?” asks the guy beside me. Homme’s been so successfully flirting with 14,300 people all at once, I think he’s maybe jealous.

In an encore drawn mostly from 2002’s era-defining Songs for the Deaf, Homme dedicates God Is in the Radio to its original singer, former Screaming Trees and QOTSA band member Mark Lanegan, who died last year. It’s a vertiginous tightrope to walk between the sheer, world-beating coolness of Queens of the Stone Age (every damn one of them exudes such overwhelming self-assured sexiness) and heart-on-your-sleeve emotional openness… but tonight we’re all balancing up there with them, enjoying the heart-pounding thrill.

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