Music Box @ Fonda: Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos/Videos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com
(Note: This review was first published by MTVnews.com)
On the night of October 1st, 2005, I found myself inside the Hollywood Bowl enjoying one of my favorite bands – Queens of the Stone Age as the main support to Nine Inch Nails. As smoke from the rampant forest fires across the Southland choked the autumn air, I witnessed a quick and clever set from Queens. It was also the only time I would see keyboard player Natasha Shneider perform in any capacity. Natasha lost her battle with cancer on July 2nd 2008. To honor her memory and help recover some to the expenses from her fight, Queens of the Stone Age, along with some very special friends, put on a one of a kind memorial Saturday night in Hollywood.
During the two hour wait between doors and show, we were entertained by a DJ spinning rock over some European cinema. A common idea amongst the crowd was the idea that the film may have been a favorite of Natasha. Shortly after 9:00 pm, we were greated by the acoustic comedic heavy metal duo – Tenacious D. The D played a very loose set which lead axe slinger Kyle Gass dubbed their “Bonnaroo” set. With no planned set list, the five song gig featured classic D songs like “Kielbasa”, “Wonderboy” & “Fuck her Gently”. I have seen the D many times over the year, and it was interesting seeing the usually tight D playing so un-rehearsed. Despite this, the band had no problem turning the sold out crowd into the newest members of the D-ciple army. Not even Satan, who Jack Black blamed for his microphone malfunction during the final song “Tribute” could ruin an amazing evening for the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world.
As the road crew quickly arranged the stage for the main event, the screen dropped back down and played a five minute picture tribute to the life of Natasha. Showing a lifetime of photographs covering just about every human emotion, the crowed loudly cheered at the end of the tribute to the Russian born musician. The screen ascended back into the rafters of the intimate theater, and the current lineup of Queens of the Stone Age took to the stage. The band opened with the 2003 hit “Go With The Flow”. Lead by recently shaved Queens founder/frontman Josh Homme, the song started much slower and laid back than usual, but by the end was chugging along at the typical earth crushing Queens pace. The next four songs all came from the 2007 record Era Vulgaris including a sharp as nails take on “Misfit Love” and the Guitar Hero favorite “3′s & 7′s.”
As the last notes of 3′s rang thru the house, the five men who make up Queens of the Stone Age left the stage and made way for Polly Jean Harvey. Now, my knowledge of PJ Harvey is starts and ends at that big fish little fish swimming in the water song. After watching her perform, I think I have robbed myself and it’s time to seek out more. Accompanied by one time Queens member and partner of Natasha Shneider, Alain Johannes, PJ played a whispery song of hers called “Desperate Kingdom of Love”. From there, two songs from Josh Homme’s ongoing Desert Sessions project followed. Backed by Queens of the Stone Age as well as long time Queens/Desert Session producer/contributor Chris Goss, PJ and company ran though tight sounding versions of “Powdered Wig Machine” & Crawl Home.
While PJ made her exit, Alain & Chris stayed behind for versions of the hit “Little Sister” and another song from Era, “I’m Designer”. Sharply-dress Queens guitar player Troy Van Leeuwen was a monster on the later, jumping around in his designer suit while complimenting Homme’s playing. Mentioning the home town connection, a cover of “Not To Touch The Earth” By The Doors while both unexpected and great, was quickly forgotten for what was to come next. Former Soundgarden and current Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron (who would come and go the rest of the night) joined the band on a second drum kit for one of my all time favorite Queens songs. “Hanging Tree”, a Dessert Session number that found its way onto the band’s 2002 record Song For The Deaf was fast and brutal with its speedy and spastic riffs and pounding drums. Johannes took care of the vocals for “Hanging Tree” as well as the next number, a Dessert Sessions number called “Making A Cross”. With the mood a little more somber, Cross, a very slow and emotional song with it’s lush beauty but twisted and distorted ending made a good bridge into the upbeat.
It was time for us to smile again as the duo known as Tenacious D returned to the stage. With the D on vocals, the band dove into a fun cover of the Cream hit “I Feel Free”. When not singing, JB & KG were doing some kind of interpretive dance sending the sold out crowd into an uproar. The D did a great job of keeping the mood lifted, knowing when to be over the top, and when to keep the mood somber.
In fairness, I really am not a fan of Josh Homme’s wife, former frontwoman of The Distillers, Brody Dalle. However, given the circumstances of the evening, I kept an open mind to what she could bring to the table. Looking very elegant, yet somewhat lost and confused on stage, Brody sounded great on the Dessert Sessions number “Don’t Drink The Poison”. The next song which was called “Driving Song” had some great riffs and the vocal melody that Dalle is well known for. The real highlight of her time on stage however was the sweet interaction between her and Homme, even getting a collective group ahhhhh from the crowd after she received a quick kiss from him.
The final four songs of the night’s set came from the last two Queens records: the earlier mentioned “Era” along with the 2005 record Lullabies to Paralyze (which Natasha toured behind). I thought for sure ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons would join the band along with Tenacious D on “Burn The Witch” as he was billed as a friend. However, for whatever reason he was MIA from the event with no reason given as to why. PJ Harvey did return for the funky Dessert Session by way of Era Vulgaris jam “Make It Wit Chu”. With recent rock radio hit “Sick Sick Sick” firing on all cylinders after 15 months on and off the road, the band closed out the marathon set in ferocious fashion.
For the encore, Johannes returned to the stage for an acoustic number, with various members of Queens and Matt Cameron clapping behind him. A rocking “Fun Machine” lead into the stage being taken captive by Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse “The Devil” Hughes. With “the ginger Elvis” Homme taking to one of the drum kits on stage, Hughes lead the house band through a rocking “Speaking in Tongues”. As cliche as it is to have the split the crowd in half and see who can cheer louder, Hughes did it with such enthusiasm and passion that one could not help but take pride in their side of the theater and scream their brains out. Hughes left the stage as quickly as he came, and the band launched into the last song of the night. We all knew it was coming, but none of us were ready for “The Long Slow Goodbye”. The last song on “Lullabies” and the perfect way to say goodbye. The mood was tense and Homme’s voice cracked as he fought hard to hold back tears. A look across the room and at the faces of the crowd and band clearly showed he was not the only one who failed to keep the damn from breaking. The song felt a bit slower than usual, and as hard as I tried to hang on, it was over all to soon. The house lights came on, and Homme thanked everyone for coming out. He followed the heart-felt gratitude by asking all the musicians to come back on stage for a group photo with the crowd. Queens of the Stone Age and friends came to pay tribute to their friend and they did just that. With a moving and sonic tribute to someone who left way too soon, Natasha was given a truly special send off, and I am very thankful I was able to be witness to it.