Queens of the Stone Age let it loose at the Mann

INDIO, CA - APRIL 19: Musician Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 19, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
INDIO, CA - APRIL 19: Musician Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 19, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella) (Getty Images for Coachella)
Posted: July 22, 2014

For the last night of its U.S. tour - Sunday at Mann Center's outdoor Skyline Stage - Queens of the Stone Age truly let loose. A frightening proposition, considering guitarist-singer-lead Queen Josh Homme and company always blast forth with the most dramatically stylized iteration of glam-inspired, stoner riff-rock since David Bowie started Tin Machine. But there was Homme, all 6-foot-4 of him, peering at the starry skies, lush greenery, and sold-out throng at his feet, and he was in awe.

"All this in the middle of the city!" he exclaimed.

Homme's vocals were a joy, touched by Bowie-esque nasal nuances, theatrical trills, and fleeting yet potent flashes of falsetto - yet with a strictly American flatness. It seemed unlikely that he or any singer could maintain such touches over the crisp ferocity of "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire," the crunch of "No One Knows," and the hard jangle of "My God is the Sun." But there was Homme, elegantly elongating his vowels and flirting with his high notes, quietly and powerfully. Kudos to their sound guy for maintaining, with clarity, the balance between raging rock-outs, ethereal harmonies, and Homme's vocal range.

Certainly, the sound guy's job got easier when Homme poured emotion into piano-led tunes such as the John Barry-esque "In the Fade," with its rousing "you live till you die" chorus.

What Queens do best, though, is swagger, and swagger they did, during the swirling, organ-based tune "The Fun Machine Took a [Germanic expletive] and Died" (night's best line: "You ain't Robert Mitchum"), the swaying "If I Had a Tail" (nice "Ooh la la/Da doo ron ron" opening), and the slinky, blue "Make It Wit Chu." The band toyed with the suppleness of modern soul, not only vocally, but also musically, by turning "Smooth Sailing" into a meta-funk strut. Fans left happy with the designer-drug-filled "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," but that soul thing truly caught my ear.

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