Review: Queens Of The Stone Age @ Hordern Pavilion (Sydney)

Queens Of The Stone Age played Hordern Pavilion (Sydney) on 21 February, 2024 - image © AH Imagery
I'm Daniel, a freelance writer with a passion for music, arts and culture. By day, I work as an arts administrator, but when the sun sets over Sydney I explore the city's incredible nightlife. I'm there ready to translate the magic into words.

So many bands reach the height of fame only to disappear overnight, and then there is Queens Of The Stone Age.

QOTSA have stubbornly sustained longevity in a music ecosystem dominated by algorithmic recommendations and playlists.

This pulsating rock outfit gave us something to head-bang and dance to at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion (21 February), going as far back as the late '90s with seminal albums such as 'Rated R' and 'Songs For The Deaf.

Their sonic journey has steadily expanded from this period onwards, becoming one of a handful of guitar-led groups to truly attain a global mass audience that adores their edgy, escapist and enthralling anthems.

After a few decades in the music business, frontman and bandleader Josh Homme has had a revolving door of musicians pass through Queens Of The Stone Age, but the current line-up has now been together for a number of years touring many countries and headlining prestigious music festivals and performing in sweaty, packed stadiums and theatres.

QOTSA - image © AH Imagery

This quintet released their eighth studio album 'In Times New Roman' last year, and are currently embarking on 'The End Is Nero' tour. Joining them as support acts are Melbourne underground art-punk heroes Gut Health and Perth's trippy and stylish psych rockers Pond.

Gut Health's early appearance at 7pm at the sold-out gig was just what early comers needed – a young, dynamic outfit who stormed the stage with their unique brand of indie alternative music. Their two drummers were utilised to great effect as frontwoman Athina Uh Oh strolled across the stage giving us her charismatic energy and lively presence.

Gut Health's compositions were short, sharp and punchy. The final song extended to a lengthy, slightly improvised jam that would've felt right at home within the New York no-wave scene of the 1970s, while the lyrics gave the audience something to think about on the climate crises.

Later POND took the stage with their primitive psychedelic demeanour making the audience feel like they were partying in some kind of time machine. Their retro leanings felt like we were entering a time when vinyl records were everywhere and concerts were a chance for people to be free and express themselves.

POND - image © AH Imagery

Fashion aesthetics aside, POND's frontman Nick Allbrook was all about channelling his inner Mick Jagger swagger and made us all feel we were born to be wild. There were even musician swaps between keyboardist and drummer duties while transitioning between songs.

POND's retro style is not exclusive to only one era of music as it stretches from '60s psychedelic rock to '80s new wave especially on their single 'Human Touch' with its wash of synths.

Both support acts brought their artistry full heartedly to the stage and gave the audience an appetiser of what was about to rattle this pavilion.

The audience were now fully packed in and as the lights dimmed down, 'Smile' by Peggy Lee played in the background as mysterious figures walked onstage revealing themselves as the five formidable members of Queens Of The Stone Age.

'Regular John' from the band's debut self-titled album opened their first Sydney show since 2017 followed immediately by the infamous rock anthem of the early 00s, 'No One Knows'. Its guitar riff cannot be ignored and is instantly recognisable, so much so it was paramount for the 1,000-plus people in the venue to sing the chorus in unison.

QOTSA - image © AH Imagery

Throughout the night it was a throw of the dice between songs from the most recent album 'In Time New Roman' and going back to their heyday as well as performing the songs which featured on fan favourite albums such as '...Like Clockwork', 'Era Vulgris' and 'Lullabies To Paralyze' – everyone knew the lyrics intimately on the hypnotising tune 'If I Had A Tail'.

What's apparent in their catalogue of hits and deep cuts is how they aren't shy of composing a fat groove to dance and wiggle to; you could clearly hear this when they played songs like 'Smooth Sailing' and the Talking Heads-inspired piece 'Time & Place' with its artsy rhythm section and primal staccato guitar chugging.

The newer songs such as 'Carnavoyeur' and 'Negative Space' went down well with the Sydney devotees, while Homme's innate sense of joy led the crowd's enthusiastic glam-rock stomps and synchronised clapping on 'Emotion Sickness'.

Given they had travelled all this way to play for us here in Sydney, Joshua encouraged fans to request any song from their rich back catalogue. The winner was the deep cut 'Avon' from their debut album that you would unlikely hear these days at their concerts, yet Josh was happy to pull that song out of their musical bag of goodies giving this crowd exactly what it wanted.

QOTSA - image © AH Imagery

Being a band hailing from the Californian desert, it's unsurprising the amount of psychedelic compositions they've written over the years. Probably their most kaleidoscopic song to date is 'Better Living Through Chemistry' from 'Rated R' as it gave the audience the chance to witness why they are so multitalented.

Drummer John Theodore kicked off the song with its hypnotic eastern influenced drumming and it expanded like a flower blooming with all its colours and depth. Green and red lights strobed madly as everyone lost themselves in the music and Josh's vocals were on point and delivered a magic carpet ride of a performance.

Credit also goes to the lighting technicians who enhanced the music with an incredible, vivid lighting production, while the sound mixers also did an outstanding job making Queens Of The Stone Age sound immaculate.

They concluded their main set with the hit single and feel-good tune 'Little Sister', a song which still stands the test of time and makes people dance as well as admire the musicianship and song writing skills the band is undoubtedly celebrated for.

QOTSA - image © AH Imagery

A rock concert however is not truly over until the encore is performed and this outfit absolutely has the compositions required for the most impactful and wickedly hard hitting conclusion of any modern tour.

The three encore songs all came from their masterpiece album 'Songs For The Deaf', which has some of the heaviest and darkest compositions in their illustrious catalogue.

'You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire' was applauded by everyone as soon as their proto metal guitar chords were played, that led devastatingly to another timely classic, 'Go With The Flow'.

Despite their maturity and diverse evolution over the years, their inherent metal roots were finally unveiled on the very last song of the evening in the menacing, gut wrenching and all-out awesome tune 'A Song For The Dead'.

If you needed to let some pent up energy come out, this was the moment to do so. A massive mosh pit opened up and all hell broke loose as everyone jumped in like hungry reptiles finding a dead carcass in the middle of the desert.

It was an epic conclusion to an all-round stellar concert and one that Queens fans from Sydney and beyond will surely remember for years to come.

This show was a complete history of their musical arsenal, a set list that featured 19 of their old and new songs, yet there were some omissions which is understandable given their longevity.

It's no surprise they're still loved and are selling out shows in a time of economic hardship as people search for the ultimate way to escape for a few hours. There really isn't any better way to do this than a night out with this awesome hard rocking and sexy quintet.

- written by Daniel Jaramillo

More photos from the show.

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