LOS ANGELES — Perhaps even more than their radio chestnuts “No One Knows,” “Go With the Flow” and “Little Sister,” Queens of the Stone Age are known for their revolving cast of players — which has included Dave Grohl, Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron and Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan. But on Tuesday night at the Wiltern LG, a most unexpected guest passed through the turnstiles, one fans have been clamoring for since QOTSA began: John Garcia, singer of Homme’s previous troupe Kyuss.
After more than eight years of divorce, childhood friends Homme and Garcia buried the proverbial hatchet and resurrected three songs from their influential hard-rock band’s catalog as part of an encore that capped an already surprise-filled night.
Hoping to put a positive spin on a rough year, Queens of the Stone Age committed to two consecutive hometown shows at the same venue where Homme made his first 2005 appearance as part of Tenacious D’s tsunami benefit show (see “Will Ferrell Rocks Cowbell At Star-Studded Tsunami Benefit” ). Homme had been dogged throughout 2005 by gossip about partner Brody Dalle’s pregnancy (see “QOTSA’s Josh Homme, Brody Dalle Expecting Their First Child” ) and lingering questions about the departures of erstwhile members Lanegan and singer/bassist Nick Oliveri (see “Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan Leave Queens Of The Stone Age” ). He’s also been rankled by bronchitis and severe exhaustion throughout the year (see “Queens Soldier On With Tour Despite Homme’s Onstage Collapse “ ). Needless to say, the falsetto crooner was hoping to end 2005 on a high note.
Monday night’s set was a fairly straightforward, two-hour jobber, although the usually slick Homme interrupted two songs — one because of a faulty guitar, the other because of an unruly fan he singled out as a “racist, homophobic Nazi.” For good measure, he challenged the escorted brawler to fight the band’s Amazonian keyboardist, Natasha Shneider, on his way out.
Going beyond QOTSA’s knack for tweaking their live staples with freshly improvised twists, the ever-evolving band added another dimension with an occasional third guitarist: Aaron North of Nine Inch Nails and the Icarus Line. But fans begging for special appearances by Lanegan, Oliveri or ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons — who played with the band in Los Angeles earlier in the year and added a few licks to last year’s Lullabies to Paralyze — were disappointed. Homme still managed to keep the mood light throughout, adding levity with wisecracks like “It’s not lame to clap … it’s only lame to get the clap.”
On both nights the band coughed up some odds and sods, keeping in step with their recently released, far-reaching DVD/CD collection Over the Years and Through the Woods. But Tuesday night appeared extra-special from the get-go: QOTSA led off with two numbers from their self-titled debut and the hard-to-find B-side “Born to Hula.” They also treated the crowd to “Rickshaw,” a track from Homme’s Desert Sessions side project, and “First It Giveth,” a rarely performed cut from 2002’s Songs for the Deaf (drummer Joey Castillo has notoriously had problems re-creating the difficult beats originally laid down by Dave Grohl).
While he’s made no mistake of his disdain for gossip, Homme sprinkled some gas onto the embers when he introduced the relatively new B-side, “The Fun Machine Took a Sh– and Died,” by saying, “This is a song about my former friends.” One of the stand-out lyrics: “You’re 10 pounds of sh– and five pounds of man.”
Two songs later, though, he dedicated the main-set closer, “A Song for the Dead,” to Lanegan, who used to sing the song for the band on tour.
And then, after a few minutes of crowd roar, Homme came back out onstage to introduce a guest infinitely more unexpected than Lanegan.
“Now I want to play you something really old,” he announced, whetting fans’ ears for long-lost Kyuss material. This wasn’t exactly anything new; QOTSA began their career mooching off Kyuss’ catalog, and when QOTSA toured with Grohl, they played a memorable cover of “Allen’s Wrench” at the Metro in Chicago. (Equally prized in bootleg circles is Tool’s cover of “Demon Cleaner” with Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder from a 1998 gig at the Palladium in Los Angeles.)
A small portion of the crowd had a collective fit as the longhaired Garcia — who has surfaced in recent years on Crystal Method’s 2004 hit single “Born Too Slow” (with Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland on guitar) and with his own Unida and Hermano projects — breezed across the stage. Everyone else appeared dumbfounded.
With guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Alain Johannes, Shneider and Castillo doing their best to keep up, Homme and Garcia ripped into “Thumb,” off their 1992 desert-rock masterpiece Blues for the Red Sun; “Hurricane,” from their ’95 swan song â€¦ And the Circus Leaves Town; and the slow-jam fan favorite “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop.” Homme was all smiles as he dug into the forgotten low-end riffs — most of which he wrote in his teens — and the acerbic Garcia was on his best behavior, turning his back to the crowd at junctures where he’d usually give them the finger.
Once Garcia left the stage — and after he showed a rare sign of compassion by resting his head on the 6-foot 4-inch Homme’s shoulder — the QOTSA foreman asked the crowd to help him dedicate the last song of the night to his onetime partner. Then QOTSA launched into “Go With the Flow,” putting the finishing touch on a year that might prove to be a supa one after all.
Tuesday night’s set list:
- “Regular John”
- “Born to Hula”
- “First It Giveth”
- “Give the Mule What He Wants”
- “Leg of Lamb”
- “Monsters in the Parasol”
- “Someone’s in the Wolf”
- “Long Slow Goodbye”
- “Burn the Witch”
- “I Never Came”
- “Little Sister”
- “In My Head”
- “Tangled Up in Plaid”
- “I Think I Lost My Headache”
- “The Fun Machine Took a Sh– and Died”
- “A Song for the Deaf”
- “A Song for the Dead”
- “Thumb” (with John Garcia)
- “Hurricane” (with Garcia)
- “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” (with Garcia)
- “Go With the Flow”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.