As the Minnesota Wild hit the ice at Xcel Energy Center hoping to implement a new playoff game plan, Queens of the Stone Age took the stage next door at Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Tuesday night using the same attack formation that has been winning them fans for well over a decade.
Loud buzz-saw guitars, bombastic rhythms and frontman Josh Homme’s sensual yet vaguely sadistic-sounding voice dominated Tuesday’s concert, the first Twin Cities date by the California stoner-rock band in seven years. Adding to the night’s muddy, frenetic vibe, things were already messy and tense outside the venue beforehand, as the nearly 4,000 concertgoers jammed up downtown St. Paul alongside hockey fans.
The 105-minute concert seemed to ride that mad energy. It started out heavy and manic with “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire” and “No One Knows,” also the opening cuts on the band’s 2002 breakthrough album “Songs for the Deaf.” All the fans on hand who claim to have seen QOTSA at the 400 Bar that year with Dave Grohl moonlighting on drums were in hog heaven from the get-go (never mind that all those fans never could have fit into the 400 Bar).
Performing under thickly stacked banks of blood-red and deep-purple lights, Homme played like a man very serious about his job. He only talked a little and kept things moving with wham-bam persistency. He’s one frontman who doesn’t put on much of a show but still has a captivating quality — primarily by the way he carefully steers the souped-up muscle car that is his band and seems to relish its every turn and burn.
Homme let off the gas a few times in the set, starting with the piano-fueled title track of the band’s new album, “ … Like Clockwork,” which came off like a power ballad by that other famous Queen band (Freddie Mercury’s). Halfway though the show, though, the lengthy slow jam “I Appear Missing” dragged on too long. Same with “Make It Wit Chu,” which echoed the falsetto sass of the Stones’ “Miss You.”
Some of the shortest, most straightforward, full-throttle songs were the night’s most visceral and memorable moments. Those included the gear-grinding new single “Smooth Sailing,” as well as the repetitious drug chant “Feel-Good Hit of the Summer” and “Song for the Dead,” which proved a grade-A showcase for newish drummer Jon Theodore. The latter two tunes were saved for the encore and had fans still bobbing their heads when the house lights went up.
With the Wilkins balcony only about three-quarters full, the sound bounced around the empty seats like the puck next door in the X, doing little to disprove the auditorium’s bad reputation for acoustics. But this was one show where the thundering feeling coming through fans’ heels and chest was as important as whatever came through their ears.
See QOTSA’s full set list and more photos at startribune.com/music