Queens of the Stone Age is the best damn rock band on the planet.
Granted, there isn't a whole lot of competition left for that title right now—at least, not in the space Josh Homme's revolving group of miscreants currently occupies—but they've been in the conversation stretching all the way back to the project's 1998 debut. Right now, though, when it comes big, sexy, heavy-grooving rock'n'roll, there's really nobody fucking with them.
Last night's performance at the Keller Auditorium was a 21-sledgehammer salute, beginning with a pulverizing combo right out the gate, with the thudding drug paean "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" and its 2002 breakthrough hit "No One Knows" rolling straight through to the concluding "A Song for the Dead," allowing the band's new percussion beast-master, ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, to take a shot at nailing Dave Grohl's mammoth fills. (He succeeded, btw.) The Keller is the weirdest place in Portland to see a hard rock show—in the light it looks like a mega-church more than a concert hall—but Homme and company made it seem like an arena. It wasn't just the LED screens, either.
And they even gave us a bit of history, too.
Near the end of the set, Homme dedicated the sprawling "Better Living Through Chemistry," from 2000's Rated R, to former bassist Nick Oliveri, calling him "a brother from the same fucked-up mother." Homme kicked Oliveri out of the band in 2004 amid allegations he'd abused his girlfriend, and Oliveri went on to have what you might call a "troubled" decade. The two reconciled enough for Oliveri to contribute backing vocals to last year's Like Clockwork and for Homme to invite Oliveri's new band, Moistboyz, to support this current tour.
Up until last night, though, it'd been 10 years since Oliveri had played with QOTSA in public. In the encore, Homme invited Oliveri—still sporting the GG Allin goatee-and-baldhead look—to sing the blistering, larynx-scraping "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire."
Seeing Oliveri back onstage served as a reminder of what was lost when Homme booted him out. Although the firing was justified, the intervening years saw Queens of the Stone Age fully evolve into the Josh Homme Show, and for a time the band dipped into a kind of stasis: While Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris have great moments, it didn't release an album as fully-formed as Songs for the Deaf until Like Clockwork.
For two-plus minutes at the Keller, Oliveri brought a wild, unhinged element to a group that's now runs with gobsmacking efficiency. Should he rejoin permanently? Probably not. But it was exciting while it lasted.
Here's the fan video: