The co-headlining tour by Queens Of The Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails seems like a very savvy business idea. Take two bands with very different sounds but enough crossover in their large respective fan bases and mix up the order of opener and headliner at random. With festivals in Australia in a very precarious position it is fair to say that this concept would be watched closely by both punters and business types with any interest in touring bands Down Under. As a fan of all three acts due to appear on the night I had no hesitation in handing over the required coin to head down to the new venue du jour of big live shows in town – Perth Arena. As fan of live music in general I hoped like hell enough like-minded people did likewise, if this was a test case for the future I prayed for its success.
The evening’s entertainment was to be kicked off by the one and only Brody Dalle. I was particularly excited to see her live show for a couple reasons, the obvious one being the fact that I have been a fan of most of her musical output and the second reason being my longstanding crush on her. I am not usually one to be concerned in analyzing the appearance of a performer – the atheistic are largely inconsequential to the quality of the show, however Brody is the exception to the rule due to my infatuation with this rock n roll empress. From the moment she strode out onto the stage with characteristic sensual swagger she was captivating physically and musically.
Brody and her band kicked off the set with a couple of tracks from her Distillers days and it was a smart move. The crowd that had gathered close to the stage seemed extremely appreciative of the popular opening songs and they served as a great way to grab the audience’s attention. The band then managed to hold that attention as they smashed through songs with minimal fuss or fucking around. Brody doesn’t need banter to be engaging, she has mystic in spades. She knows her sex appeal is part of the package so she owns it and oozes it as she stands and delivers – guitar an organic extension of herself and her amazing and inimitable voice soaring & roaring in its pure velvet soaked gravel tones. Whilst I confess to being unfamiliar with several of the songs they were instantly appealing musically and the band were into the performance and their enjoyment was immediately endearing. Brody and her cohorts sounded great and she looked fucking amazing.
A unique facet of this tour was that the two main acts were flipping a coin nightly to determine the order of performance. It was fun to stand in front of the stage watching the roadies busily setting up the gear and trying to guess which band was up first. We actually weren’t sure until the lights dimmed for the musos to enter the fray and the huge frame and definitive gait of Josh Homme were identified as his silhouette sauntered across the stage.
And so began a set of impeccable musical quality, the sound was spot on and the band was in fine fettle. From the opening notes of “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire”, the chaos kicked off, my mate Moo and I stood front and centre which landed us among the pushers, shovers, exuberant dancers and macho meatheads.
* As a side note I feel compelled to comment here on the behavior of some dudes at rock shows, why do so many guys think it is compulsory to get overly physical as soon as a guitar is played on stage? I have no problem whatsoever with moshing, stage diving or general physicality in the appropriate environment – if it is a hardcore or metal show then fill your boots fellas! I can hold my own but it is not me I worry about, if it is a straight up rock show then it becomes apparent you are moshing as a rote response to being in crowd at a show – I really don’t think Queens are a band that warrants slam dancing and crowd climbing. I don’t know if it’s muscle memory or an out of place pissing contest but a band that is so popular with such a wide demographic should mean their fans of all ages and both sexes should be able to enjoy the show equally without the impost of having to fight to stay upright and alive. Rant over, back to the music…*
In his time as the head honcho of this group Josh Homme has always been a first class front man and he has assembled such an impressive array of supremely talented compatriots that a QOTSA show is rarely going to disappoint. And performance-wise this show was no exception – the songs were played perfectly as Josh and band put on a pretty much flawless performance. The light show was impressive without being overwhelming and the stage was backed by huge screens serving as an eye-catching and impressive visual accompaniment.
My only beef with the show itself was the set list, a minor and completely subjective whinge it may be, but the songs chosen tonight were essentially a list of my least favorite Queens tracks mixed with songs from the new album. It did little to detract from my enjoyment of the show but it was a minor disappointment not hear anything from the band’s first two albums and the selections from ‘Lullabies To Paralyse’ being the least personally exciting. The new material was enjoyable without being breathtaking, particularly strong in the live setting were album highpoints ‘My God Is The Sun’ and ‘I Appear Missing’ with the latter possibly being my personal highlight of the evening with its rising and falling flow. However it was understandably the older hits that drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd around us, and of course “that song” “No One Knows” made the kids go apeshit,
The non-musical highpoint of the night was when Josh paused the songs to fill us in on the story behind a sign-wielding fan in the audience named Gary, let’s just say Gary is my new hero, this lofty position won based on his drunken exploits with the band in Dublin and the fact Josh invited the apparently mad Irishman to join them backstage. It was a welcome moment of uniqueness, a touch of entertaining humanity to break up a show so slick that it did risk becoming mildly mechanical at times.
The set was finished in fantastic style with a thumping rendition of “A Song For The Dead” with its polyrhythmic drum parts handled in brilliant and brutal fashion by Jon Theodore. I consensually joined the heaving throng and slammed around in pure punishing joy. Great set by a band who are smooth and professional whilst warm and charming enough to retain a connection with their audience.
A brief respite was next, and I welcomed the chance to sit, rehydrate and allow the bodily fluids soaking my clothing to dry out. But soon it was time to stake out another position for the next act.
Nails Inch Nails soon erupted into action and from the get-go a few things became immediately apparent – the light show was going to be mind-blowing, the beat and sound were potentially life altering and Trent Reznor has been working out. Reznor is the sun around which this group’s multi-talented maestros orbit and he burns brightly throughout the whole show. He commands the stage as he saunters between instruments with posture and polish, he remains enchanting even when doing his awkward hunched over dance. Each of the band members shone too as they seamlessly transferred between instruments and electronic contraptions and played all with equally assured aplomb. The show was mostly mesmerizing, the eyeball destroying, twitch inducing light show continued to reveal its wonders as the show progressed with new and exciting tricks and nuances dropping all the way through. The sound was perfect, a cacophony of beautiful clatter that was so crisp it cut through the room like a sharpened blade.
The crowd had thinned since QOTSA but those around us were happily lapping it up, bouncing around to the discordant yet danceable beats bursting forth. One of the most impressive things about NIN is the immediacy of the sound – even if you are unfamiliar with the track at hand and hearing the song for the first time there is a balance of catchiness coupled with enough interesting wrinkles to keep even a casual fan enthralled. That said, for the me the clear highlights were the songs I knew and loved best, a definite highlight early was “Terrible Lie” followed by “March Of The Pigs”: both songs fucking rocked.
The set moved along at a good pace: the energy emanating from the stage was impressive and the audience were responding in suitable fashion. The only lowlight was the downer that occurred when Trent invited Mariqueen Maandig onto stage to join him in the rendition of two tracks from their shared side project ‘How To Destroy Angels’ Bringing the missus out to sing along a few tracks isn’t a completely horrible idea (hint, hint Mr & Mrs Homme) but the slow burning HTDA songs acted as an atmosphere vacuum sucking all the hype out of the room and drawing little beyond confused and frustrated looks from among those around me, But it is oddly reassuring to see even alt-rock royalty subscribes to the adage of “happy wife-happy life”.
The band soon began rebuilding the momentum and managed to deftly manoeuvre the night towards its crescendo. The last three tracks were appropriately awesome – “The Hand That Feeds” is a rollicking tune and was followed by the classic “Head Like A Hole” which brought the crowd to fever pitch for the sing-along it provided. The finale was the beautiful and touching “Hurt”: a song that seizes everyone in the room and captures them in the moment. Reznor stood amid a blue stream of light and delivered the song with passion and precision. A wonderful end to a wonderful night of music performed by a trio of fantastic bands and headlined by a couple of acts which reinforced to all and sundry why they are two of the handful of bands currently capable of headlining almost any musical event in the world. Perfectly executed throughout with a pair of expertly authoritative artists clearly backed by a slick unit of back of house professionals who didn’t miss a beat. If this dual headline concert is a taste of the touring future then consider my appetite whet and my vote a resounding yes on any similar future pairings.