The Lost Art of Great Musicianship

QOTSA - liveQOTSA – Live in Novi Sad, Serbia (2014)

Queens of the Stone Age is not a “get rich quick” band that bases its fame and popularity on the success of one album, or more specifically the one major hit single (“No One Knows”) from that one album that featured Mr. Nice Guy of rock & roll, Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters).

They are instead a band that built its career (and subsequent success) on hard work, touring, brilliant song and music writing and a firm grasp of what they believe in and in which direction they want to take their music.  As cliché as it may sound, it’s true and their live performances show it.

You don’t need to be a fan of their music or even a fan of the music they played in their roots (bands such as Kyuss come to mind), to appreciate the fact that these are talented musicians who, in this day of computer-produced rhythms overlaid on distorted but plain guitar chords (and the one-hit wonder bands that play them), make music that is truly an artform. An artform that is audibly and even visually displayed at its finest on every live stage they step on.

On June 11th, Queens of the Stone Age headlined a one-day rock festival at the Petrovaradin fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia organised by the Exit Festival (yes, the winner of the Best European Festival award last year) as a warm-up to this year’s Exit Festival in a months time. A decent and strong lineup of local rock bands opened the festival. Young Belgrade band Repetitor kicked things off to a good start. Ritam Nereda, Eyesburn and Partibrejkersi got the 16,000 rock fans amped and ready for the “QOTSA”.

Whilst the obligatory “waiting period” ticked away, the music that was played through the speakers was a blend of 50’s and 60’s early rock & roll, ranging from Jerry Lee Lews and Buddy Holly to Chuck Berry and more.
Reflecting Queens of the Stone Age’s precision in music, the lights dimmed at exactly 22:30 and a one-minute countdown on stage began. As the number 0 flashed on the stage, drummer Jon Theodore began hitting a Fortress-shattering drum beat as one sole light beamed down on him. As the rest of the band jumped in, the stage lights lit up and the crowd roared a loud cheer for QOTSA.

“You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire” was the perfect start to get all the fans jumping, dancing and even do a little bit of moshing. To keep the tempo going, the band jumped into “that” hit single “No One Knows”. The light effects were mesmerising and the band were on point from the word “Go”. Front man, singer and guitarist (one of three) Josh Homme was his usual dashing self with a 50’s-era Elvis hairdo with a modern twist, black collared shirt and a complimentary, stylish guitar in his hands.

The setlist itself contained a coulourful concoction of the band’s songs, from the classics to the hits. Both “eras” combined to included “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, “LIttle Sister”, “Sick, Sick, Sick”, “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and, among others, a rollercoaster version of “Go With the Flow” that brought the show to an end…almost. Before the band took a little break, Homme departed from the crowd with the words “This place is somethin’ special”.

With the full moon lighting the fortress, the fans and the stage in the dark of the night it felt like a dose of magic had been added to the evening and as the Queens of the Stone Age returned to the stage, they were greeted by an even louder reception than before.

“The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, “3’s & 7’s” and the disturbinbgly fitting finale “Song for the Dead” brought the Exit Rocks festival on a clear, moonlit sky to an end. The local bands, both old and new, gave great performances and the headliners showcased their subtle but masterful skills as musicians. And while the speakers weren’t so loud as to make the ear drums ring, they didn’t really need to be. QOTSA aren’t a thrash metal band or a show-off band that needs a wall of guitar amps all set to “Maximum” to make an impression. They captivate the crowd with their musicianship, their collaboration as a band, their influence as individuals and they don’t need to make the amps scream to make you appreciate the music. More rock bands need this work ethic and dedication to their craft, but will this influence ever spread? No one knows. 😉

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