Live Review: Queens of the Stone Age tease new album Villains during heavy hitting show in Sydney with Ecca Vandal

Back in the country for the first time since their co-headline tour with Nine Inch Nails in 2014, Queens of the Stone Age are on the road this week for a run of shows which tease their upcoming album Villains (due out August 25th). The tour kicked off with their first ever show in Darwin, and ends this weekend at Splendour in the Grass – but tonight it was Sydney’s turn, with the group hitting the Hordern Pavilion. Supporting the group was rising rock n roller Ecca Vandal.

Ecca, wearing one of the coolest Primus shirts I’ve ever seen (and can I have one), smashed out a thirty minute set with her three piece band, barely taking time to breathe during tracks. They had some excellent crowd interaction, all the same, and briefly dedicated a song to those seeking asylum. Highlights from the set included “Truth to Trade”, “End of Time” and “Work Days, Party Nights”. The band sounded particularly tight tonight, and it really feels like Ecca is, at times, channeling a mid 90’s Gwen Stefani, which I absolutely love. You’ve gotta check this band out if you haven’t already.

The shows in Australia for QOTSA mark some of the first for Villains – it’s not even out after all – and the first for the band since Josh and Dean Fertita hit the road with Iggy Pop as part of the Post Pop Depression Tour. So it’s no surprise that there was a fresh feeling to band’s set; by the time they last toured Australia for …Like Clockwork, it felt like the band were just going through the paces at times. But here, the band seem excited to play new material, and rediscover some of their old tracks along the way.

This was clear as Josh emerged, with his routine swagger and a less routine smile, throwing a walking stick into the crowd (his own, thanks to a busted knee), with “Turnin’ on the Screw” opening the night; his ever wonderful four piece behind him. The majority of the set lent on …Like Clockwork, with a splattering of their greatest hits (including no less than four tracks from Songs for the Deaf) and a couple of new tunes for good measure: “The Evil Has Landed” coming early and the single “The Way You Used To Do” sneaking in during the second half. “Monsters in the Parasol” came second in the night, and one of their biggest hits, “Little Sister”, snuck in third, with Josh using the introduction of the track to comb his hair and ask the sold out crowd “Watch this… are you ready?” Indeed we were, and it set the stage for the hit and fan favourite filled set that was to follow.

To say this was a strong set from the band is likely an understatement; this was amongst the best I’ve ever seen from them. Josh was enthusiastic and on point from start to finish, delivering another level of quality to the show. It helps that the set list was so strong, but really it just feels like we’ve caught the band at a good time. They’re happy to be here, playing well together and enjoying the catalogue. Some may have been disappointed by the lack of new songs in principle, but we all know how much that can kill the vibe. “The Evil Has Landed” certainly served as a promising of the new album, with there being some particularly strong guitar work thrown into the mix.

As with any Queens set, the music was largely performed as you’ll find on record, but some tracks particularly stuck out amongst the pack. “Smooth Sailing” and “I Sat By The Ocean” were highlights for me, as was the ever faithful “Go with the Flow”, which hit just before “No One Knows” closed out the main set. “A Feel Good Hit For The Summer” was particularly strong tonight, with the band enjoying some excellent crowd interaction, and adding in something of an interlude in the way of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. “Make it Wit Chu” also was extended, and became a bit of a jam; appropriate given the song was born in Desert Sessions with PJ Harvey many moons ago.

“A Song For The Dead” was the sole encore presentation, and saw the band as their most compelling – bringing the music loved track back again and again to give the crowd one last head bang before calling it a night.

Our night with Queens a stellar evening of desert rock, with the band as good as they’ve ever been. If this holds true for the new album I think we’re in for a treat. Though something tells me that by the time we see them again, they won’t be this good. Tonight was on a class of its own.

Full Setlist:
* Turnin’ on the Screw
* Monsters in the Parasol
* Little Sister
* The Evil Has Landed
* Smooth Sailing
* I Sat by the Ocean
* Sick, Sick, Sick
* Feel Good Hit of the Summer
* If I Had a Tail
* Burn the Witch
* The Vampyre of Time and Memory
* Make It Wit Chu
* The Way You Used to Do
* My God Is the Sun
* You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
* Go With the Flow
* No One Knows
Encore:
* A Song for the Dead

Queens of the Stone Age play tomorrow night (20th July) in Melbourne at Festival Hall before heading to Splendour in the Grass, where their tour wraps up. Their new album Villains is out on 25th August through Matador Records.

This gig at Hordern Pavilion took place earlier tonight, 19th July 2017 in Sydney.

Photos by Gwen Lee.