By Scott T. Sterling

As they prepare to launch their 2013 world tour, Queens of the Stone Age delivered a brutal, uncompromising set heavy with new songs from their stark new album, …Like Clockwork, last night (May 23) at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.

Despite persistent indications that frontman Josh Homme and his band would perform the new album in its entirety complete with rumored special guests ranging from Dave Grohl to Trent Renzor, QOTSA followed …Like Clockwork opening song, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” with “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire,” from 2002’s Songs for the Deaf to start what would be a cameo-free show.

With a dazzling video backdrop flashing eye-popping graphics (many from U.K. artist Boneface, who is responsible for the arresting artwork of …Like Clockwork), QOTSA roared through a career-spanning set, touching on most of their studio releases over the course of the two-hour show.

The show’s focus, however, was clearly the new album, with the band playing every song from it other than “Fairweather Friends.” The songs cut like a knife, from the melodic rush of “My God is the Sun” to the ornate and hushed “Kalopsia,” which plays like a early ’70s David Bowie tune. Cranking up Led Zeppelin-like classic rock riffs on “Smooth Sailing” and goth-tinged glam with “If I Had a Tail,” …Like Clockwork is shaping up to be a laser-focused evolution of the QOTSA sound, distilling their myriad influences into explosive and often unexpected corners of the rock spectrum. It’s also a lot to take in, particularly during a packed and star-studded theater show that holds less than 2000 people (celebs including Kat Von D, Michael C. Hall, Jack White and Morrissey were spotted among the throngs), so QOTSA made a point to drop in older fan favorites. “Make It Wit Chu,” from 2007’s Era Vulgaris, made the cut, while Lullabies to Paralyze single “Little Sister” drew the biggest cheers of the night with its cowbell-powered stomp.

Homme and company played the songs with a purposeful efficiency, the frontman taking a handful of songs before finally addressing the audience, thanking the crowd for coming out and taking in so many new songs. Drummer Jon Theodore (formerly of the Mars Volta) elicited much crowd appreciation for his athletic performance behind the kit.

Encoring with Rated R anthem “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and the crushing “Song for the Dead” from Songs for the Deaf, Queens of the Stone Age wrapped up a performance that proved why, after 15+ years, their devotion to no-nonsense rock and roll (albeit with a brain) has kept them relentlessly contemporary and perpetually essential.


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