Feb 06, 2024

Queens of the Stone Age hits hard in tour opener at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre

Opening night of a concert tour can be a buyer-beware proposition. The band could be torqued up and excited or shaking off some rust.

It was decidedly the former for Queens of the Stone Age as it opened its The End is Nero U.S. tour on Thursday night, Aug. 3, at the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre.

It helped, of course, that the heavy rock quintet has already been on the road this year, in Europe, supporting its new album “In New Times Roman…” and presumably getting itself back in performing gear six years after its last tour. Location helped, too; founder and frontman Josh Homme told the nearly full house on Thursday that, “I can’t think of a better city to start” the tour in, one QOTSA has been playing in since 1998 (at the Shelter in downtown Detroit) and is also the home town of Royal Oak-raised guitarist-keyboardist Dean Fertita.

“We should all have a good time tonight” Homme predicted shortly into the almost two-hour show — which proved to be an understatement. Following opening sets by The Armed (chaotic in a good way) and Phantogram, QOTSA walked on to the recorded strains of Peggy Lee singing Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” over the PA — an ironic complement to the dark themes that dominate the band’s material — charged right “No One Knows,” its first significant single. Playing under a pyramid-shaped lighting rig the troupe was tight and cracking, audibly and visibly rested from a break after the European tour and clearly ready to get back to playing. The bearded Homme — who battled cancer and a nasty child custody dispute since QOTSA last played in these parts — was in particularly good form and humor, grateful and gracious during his between-song comments and sharply tuned to what was happening both on stage and in front of him in the crowd.

The latter was particularly true later in the show, when he noticed a fan brandishing a sign. Homme asked for it to be brought to the stage, where he read its message from a couple that used QOTSA’s “Make It Wit Chu” as its wedding song. He called for a change in the prepared set list to go immediately into the tune — extended with a bit of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” — quipping that “this is the song we’re playing at their divorce in 10 years…Nah. Nah. I’m kidding.”

The rest of the show ran white hot, meanwhile, with the band firing through pulverizing, action-packed arrangements of tour debuts of “Do It Again” and an epic “Better Living Through Chemistry” (its first airing since 2014) as well as four tracks from “In New Times Roman…” Though Homme cracked “we don’t have any hits” at one point favorites such as “If I Had a Tail,” “My God is the Sun” and “Little Sister” said otherwise, while “Smooth Sailing,” “The Way You Used to Do” and “I Sat By the Ocean” were given definitive treatments.

After dismissing the usual notion of walking off stage for an encore, Homme dedicated “God is in the Radio” to the late singer Mark Lanegan — a frequent QOTSA collaborator who sang it on the band’s 2002 album “Song For the Deaf” — before finishing the night with “Go With the Flow” and “A Song For the Dead.” “Every night is different,” Homme said before the closing couplet. “We want every night to be special. Tonight just felt wonderful, so thank you for that.”

And be assured the feeling from the crowd was more than mutual.

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