Queens Of The Stone Age make it to Milwaukee proper with almost Leonard Cohen- or Nick Cave-like frequency. Excluding an appearance at Cactus Club late last century (1999 to be exact), the modern rock ’n’ roll royalty have been anything but regular Milwaukee County visitors—an Alpine Valley opening gig for Peal Jam’s 20th anniversary (“PJ20”) tour in 2011 was the closest and most recent stop—since garnering mainstream appeal with 2001 album Songs For The Deaf. If Wednesday’s blistering and enthused QOTSA performance before a rowdy sold-out Riverside Theater crowd was any indication, there wasn’t a morsel of love lost between the Milwaukee audience and the band who’d routinely forced them to drive to Chicago, Minneapolis, and East Troy to see them over the last decade-plus.
A 60-second countdown on the lighting rig re-invigorated the ballroom after opener Chelsea Wolfe’s half-hearted Stevie Nicks tribute sucked the energy from the brimming venue. As the clock ticked down to one, then nothingness, the fervent crowd was sent into hysterics as Deaf opener “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire”—in which bandleader Josh Homme eschewed screaming to instead spare his vocal chords and sing—kicked off the set, before bleeding into chronological follower and biggest song to date, “No One Knows.” Being the second round of touring in support of a year-old album, …Like Clockwork, roughly half the 18-song set was populated with new material (comparatively speaking), the first of which was Clockwork single “My God Is The Sun.” Still, Homme and company dotted various points of the Queens’ discography, including a cluster of raucous El Vulgaris cuts, such as “I’m Designer,” “Make It Wit Chu,” and “Sick, Sick, Sick” to help balance the decidedly dour recent output.
When he spoke at all, the frontman was gracious and to-the-point, the lone exception being when he asked some balcony-dwellers who they had to fuck to get such good seats. Speaking of seats, the band’s energy mixed with frantic and colorful lights (an epileptic’s nightmare) translated surprisingly well to the large-scale seated theater. To be fair, not many people were using their chairs anyway. Though less-than verbose, Homme hit every note and the band managed to be energetic and mobile, while remaining tight throughout.
Of course, Queens pulled out fan favorites like the radio-rotated “Go With The Flow,” “Little Sister,” and …Like Clockwork album-stealer “I Sat By The Ocean” before briefly departing the blood-red stage as the still-packed room went black. The subsequent three-song encore was punctuated with an extended version of “A Song For The Dead”—arguably the band’s most brutal display of raw instrumentation—before Queens Of The Stone Age put a bow on a deeply-satisfying and long-overdue night in Milwaukee. It’s been a while since the band came through town, and, with a likely break from touring on the horizon, it might be a very long wait for a return. Yet for almost two hours on a Wednesday night in a city Queens routinely passed over, nobody seemed to care about any of that.