Rock concerts are meant to be a place to let go of everyday worries and enjoy an evening with the bands. The point couldn’t have been pushed home any further than Tuesday night at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo., when Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme stopped the show twice. Once was to tell security that everyone paid money to enjoy themselves, and the second was to threaten to throw out people fighting near the stage.
A cornucopia crowd gathered at the beautiful outdoor theater for the show, from men with long beards and tattoos to middle-aged women wearing designer jackets and heels. All sorts of fans paced the venue for a night with up-and-coming experimental rock chick Chelsea Wolfe, the bass-heavy Primus, and rock ‘n roll favorites QotSA.
When Chelsea Wolfe took the stage, I thought they were a bit out of place. Their experimental sound and extended music-heavy songs with ethereal vocals reminded me a bit of Explosions in the Sky, and I didn’t think they’d be a very good fit for the show with Primus and QotSA. I did really enjoy their music though, and recognized the song “Feral Love” from the fourth season trailer for “Game of Thrones.”
The droning sound of their music is not only catchy, but takes fans like me on an introspective adventure. With ascending and descending guitar placed within songs that seem monotone it’s easy to bob your head to the beat, and it really becomes quite catching. It’s a droning musicscape with unobtrusive vocals melded into the music that make it more of a feeling than a song.
There was a loud cheer as Primus took the stage. The bass heavy group maintained the music heavy show, with plenty of breakdowns and solos. Lead singer and bass player Les Claypool masterfully played his bass into all sorts of solos and jams, with his instrument scratching and growling to the crowd. And of course that woogity-woogity sound that makes Primus so easily identifiable.
Midway through the fourth song of the set, Claypool introduced himself and the group. He did the opening few lines to the Comedy Central cartoon “South Park” for those in attendance who didn’t know who the band was.
As if Claypool wasn’t entertaining enough, the stage setup included two giant inflatable astronauts with a screen displaying images from zombies to depression era farmers, to an elephant jumping on a trampoline. Musically, the bass-heavy music coupled with Claypool’s grunty lyrics makes for a hypnotic sound that had fans at Starlight bobbing their heads in unison.
Queens of the Stone Age closed the night out in style. Despite a set list of similar sounding music, the group broke up the monotony of their sound with extended versions of songs with plenty of jam sessions that brought the night full circle, not to mention Homme aborting the seventh song in their set “…Like Clockwork” to berate fans that were fighting near the stage.
“No f***ing fighting or I’ll throw you the f*** out,” Homme quipped.
He paused the show to let them know he would personally throw them out and kick their heads off if they tried to get on stage. Once he made sure everyone was cool, he had a drink and had one more thing to say.
“We’re not used to all this aggression, we’re used to everyone getting laid at the end of our show, it’s usually Mike (Shuman, bass),” Homme said between drinks.
He got the show going again with some cowbell as the band jumped into “Little Sister.” As the show went on there was plenty of beer drinking and fans jamming out to the music, despite there being no general admission area and seats all the way up to the stage. The jam sessions turned into five or so minutes of awe-inspiring musicianship where they’d slow things down in the middle of a song and come back to the song and run into the next in the set.
Overall it was a high energy show that had three bands that meshed well together. Altogether it was one of the best displays of musicianship I have ever seen. For the middle of May, it was a pretty chilly night with temperatures in the low 50s by the end of the show. Starlight hosted one of the most mixed crowds I have ever seen, probably because Primus cut their first record in 1989 and QotSA in 1996 so it appealed to multiple generations of fans.
While QotSA’s sound is a bit monotonous, seeing them live re-energized me as a fan of their music. Primus was awesome live; I last had an opportunity to see them live on the Family Values tour in 1999, but my parents wouldn’t let their 14-year-old go to a show with his friends. Chelsea Wolfe was really surprising, and gained at least one fan in me Tuesday night.
See an extended gallery of Andrew Mather’s photos from the show here.