Queens Of The Stone Age / Brody Dalle / The Minutes. Belsonic Festival, Belfast Custom House Square, 20 August 2014.
Across the River Lagan from the legendary shipyards that built the Titanic lies Belfast’s cultural hub, the Cathedral Quarter. Tucked away neatly within it is Custom House Square, home to the city’s annual Belsonic series of events.
Photo: Jimmy Little Jnr
Now in its seventh year, Belsonic has gone from strength to strength, attracting some of the music world’s top names. This week for example, if you will pardon the pun, will see headline sets from, among others Biffy Clyro, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers and Example. The city has come a long way from its troubled dark days it seems, and is truly enjoying a renaissance.
The same could also be said of tonight’s headliners, Queens Of The Stone Age. A prolonged hiatus, the parting of ways with long-term drummer Joey Castilo, and the near death experience suffered by main man Josh Homme however wasn’t enough to finish the band off, and last year they returned with their critically acclaimed sixth album ‘…Like Clockwork’. Commercially, the band have also reached new heights, in 2013 playing their largest ever UK tour.
Before they take to the stage however, there are a brace of acts to kick off proceedings. Dublin noise merchants The Minutes are first up, and although they are playing to an admittedly modest crowd who are still filing into the plaza, they do so with gusto. With a look and sound that is clean cut, suave and well-presented, the band tear through a thirty minute set that could loosely be described as ‘disciplined chaos’. It’s quality stuff from a band to watch out for.
Next up is former Distiller and current Mrs. Josh Homme Brody Dalle. Dalle saunters on stage, nonchalantly late, oozing cool to the delight of the healthy smattering of Broody Dalle shirt-wearing riot grrrls in the crowd. Playing punky, post-grunge, Dalle and band manage to stir the even the most rigid in the audience who are patiently awaiting tonight’s main attraction. The more youthful and energetic however get right into the spirit of things, and succeed, briefly at least in igniting a mosh pit. As the set comes to a close and energy levels rise Dalle dedicates ‘Underworld’ to Queens Of The Stone Age.
Until now, the square has been sparsely populated. However by the time the sun has all but set, and the ticking clocks of the Queens Of The Stone Age intro has begun, it’s bursting to capacity. The atmosphere is electric as the clocks count down to zero and the band arrive on stage. Launching straight into the combustible 1-2 of ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ followed by perhaps their most well know track in ‘No One Knows’ the crowd are predictably sent into a frenzy. An oldie in ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ follows before the first of a healthy number of tracks from ‘…Like Clockwork’.
What’s startlingly apparent is that the crowd are as familiar with, and as enthusiastic about the newer material as they are for the older hits. Acknowledging the band’s last show in Belfast a mere nine months earlier, Homme comments that although it was “fucking wonderful, this one is even better”, to the delight of the crowd. Visually, the show is spectacular, with a choreographed light show timed perfectly to enhance every musical nuance. Although Josh Homme is undoubtedly the de facto central figure, he has behind him a stellar band of musicians who anchor the show. This is no more apparent than during ‘…Like Clockwork’ itself, which brings with it a measured change of pace. A solo Homme is accompanied by Dean Fertita on keys before the rest of the band kick in, faithfully recreating the song’s sublime passages. A show stopping moment, it also serves to highlight just what a superb vocalist Homme really is. The main set is nearing an end, however Homme is distracted. Drugs? Alcohol? Female attention? No, a resident enjoying the gig from one of the balconies that flanks the square is holding a puppy. Taking a break to wish bassist Michael Schuman a happy 29th birthday, he comically refuses to play the last song when he notices that the puppy has disappeared from view.
Thankfully, the pooch returns, and the set comes to a close with ‘Go With The Flow’. All that’s left are the encores of the falsetto tones ‘Make It Wit Chu’ and the closing ‘A Song For The Dead’. Injecting the final sing along with a parting shot, Homme urges the crowd to “let the whole city hear you”.
There are some bands who find it difficult to recreate live what they do in the studio. There are no such problems for Queens Of The Stone Age. Musical perfection, a stunning stage production and a catalogue of great songs make for a lesson in class. Like Clockwork indeed then.
By Eamon O'Neill.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 25 August 2014.