It was a no-brainer that Queens of the Stone Age's show last night at the Pageant was sold out -- incredibly, it was the band's first St. Louis club show since September 2002. Although a no-frills 90 minutes, the set was exactly what fans expect (and crave) from QOTSA: eardrum-busting volume, sweet riffs and a steamrolling low-end.
The catch, however, is that the quintet is playing its entire 1998 self-titled album on this tour. For some fans, that gesture may have felt like a rip-off. After all, the album is notoriously hard to find -- vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme noted several times that people might not have heard it - and it doesn't have the mainstream recognition (or hits) of QOTSA's later records. However, the gimmick worked like a charm: The band clearly felt energized with the less-familiar music and consequently approached these songs as if they were new material.
Bassist Michael Shuman's freight-train playing meshed well with the scorpion-sting guitars, especially on "Mexicola" The instrumental "Hispanic Impressions" was a ferocious symphony, so much so that guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen was inspired to conduct the rest of the band. Two songs later, the dirty soul gallop "Give the Mule What He Wants" let Homme show off his impressive vocal range; he employed the latter as well during the encore appearance of the smirking "Make It Wit Chu." ("I have to do a song for the ladies, if that's all right," he quipped.) Throughout it all, drummer Joey Castillo did his best impression of Animal the Muppet, showing restraint and then absolutely exploding like a maniac where necessary.
Lights back-lit the band and alternately darkened or overexposed the stage, which created shadowy, creepy effects. Homme in particular became even more imposing in the light -- he looked a perfect cross between a lumberjack, the Addams Family's Lurch and a laid-back dad. Still, he's a perfect frontman: He strums his guitar like a delicate virtuoso, cradling the instrument with grace even as he coaxes some gnarly, nasty tones from it.