Monday, April 4, 2011

Queens of the Stone Age: Out of place at the Riv

The Riviera Theatre | 1 April 2011

A trend in music has developed over the past year or so. Rather than a band continue the cycle of releasing a new album every year or two, following by a tour to support the new album (and repeat this process until the inevitable breakup) the band will take a break and look back. This retrospective will come in the form of a re-release of a debut or earlier work (often the “signature” album of the band), followed by a small tour. Weezer followed this formula (sort of) when they were last in town. Their latest album, Hurley, was released last September. When they performed in Chicago in January, they played songs from their albums Weezer (The Blue Album, released in 1994) and Pinkerton (released in 1996).
Queens of the Stones will re-release their self-titled debut on April 19th.
     They have been touring the country since March 16th and the intimate yet stuffy Riviera Theatre in Uptown was one of their stops. The material off that album, which was released in 1998, is vastly different than their latter-day works, particularly their last studio album, Era Vulgarius, which was released a decade later. The debut is more hardcore and has more intense riffs than “Little Sister” and “No One Knows.”

One question I asked myself before I arrived at the Riviera was why on Earth would QotSA perform at such a small venue. Unless they were trying to state that they wanted to go back to their roots (which is too obvious and trying too hard, especially when re-releasing an early work), they definitely could (and should) have played at a larger venue. The Riviera is way too small and overheated for a hard rock concert. They could perform and sell out the Chicago Theatre or a mid-size amphitheatre like Northerly Island.
     It also doesn’t help that mosh pits were formed behind every other song and people were lighting up cigarettes and (possibly) marijuana during the opening act, which was a 1950s era rockabilly band that one spectator called “The Four Seasons”, and the first half of OotSA’s set. It was like being in a concert from 2000 or in a foreign country where no smoking ordinances exist. (I attended a concert at a discreet hole-in-the-wall in Mexico City over spring break. They still have ash trays at the tables and sell cigarettes along with drinks at the bar.)
     The mosh pits were different than what I’ve seen in other concerts. These were civilized mosh pits. Every time someone flew down, several other mosh pit participants would help them back up, ask if he was okay, and they would continue their action. The mosh pits were unusually synchronized. The guys involved took turns running around, slamming into each other’s chests, heads, and sides, and jumping up and down constantly while the wall of people immediately surrounding the mosh pit kept them inside the circle and/or shielded the rest of the crowd.
     I would have enjoyed QofSA’s performance more if I was able to hear lead singer Josh Homme’s voice throughout a majority of the songs. (I did hear him loud and clear during the encore when they performed 4 songs, including “Little Sister”) I’m still not sure if his barely audible singing was intentional or accidential. To be honest, the mosh pits were a bit more distracting and entertaining. I’m sure some of them forgot that the band was performing right in front of them at one point or another. #

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