Forum is already half-full when Band of Skulls open with Southampton’s answer to blues rock. They are clearly from a generation whose influences are dominated by Queens of the Stone Age. A great band for a smoke-saturated dive bar, the trio hold their own on the huge stage, thanks to a focus on riffs that doesn’t degenerate into self-indulgent soloing. Perhaps not the most inventive take on the genre, but they can sure warm up a crowd.
Much as I would like to, I cannot, in good conscience, give Queens of the Stone Age five stars. Certainly this isn’t due to the material, or the band’s ability, both having being cemented long ago as titanic. Forum is sadly up to its old tricks, messing up the sound so that Josh Homme’s vocals are near inaudible, and midway through the second song, “My God is the Sun”, the sound cuts out altogether. For the first half hour the band looks tired, with barely a word uttered between songs apart from a half-arsed “’sup”. Eventually, Josh admits that the tour has ground them down, but after a few beers and a smoke, he perks up, and next thing you know the band is really there, egged on by the crowd.
Queens of the Stone Age take us all back to being teenagers. It’s not simply because many of the songs are part of the eternal soundtrack of those times, but because their energy and simplicity lets listeners of any age experience again the physiological explosion music causes in adolescence. This is true of mental “Little Sister” as it is of “Make it wit chu” (“this is a song about fucking”) or “If I had a Tail” (“the song we have most fun playing”). It’s been worth all the technical glitches, the moodiness and reticence to get to this point.
“I’m happy and drunk,” exclaims Josh Homme. An hour in, he has reached his comfort zone, and takes the time to introduce the members of the band. Jon Theodor, ex-Mars Volta drummer, gets a well-deserved roar from the crowd.
The encore sees Josh on piano for “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, before concluding with some heavy, some might say indulgent, jams of some of their louder tracks. I take the time during these moments to observe the animations behind the band, a bloody tableau worthy of FX cartoon Metalocalypse. It’s impossible to think of Queens of the Stone Age without a sense of fun, and their humour is obvious. Thank the infernal deities that they are able to recover that sense even in their most trying moments.