Queens of the Stone Age reign at The Mahaffey Theater

Josh homme performing with queens of the stone age - The Mahaffey Theater
Josh homme performing with queens of the stone age - The Mahaffey Theater

Photo by Bridget Burke | The Mahaffey Theater

Six feet, four inches of cock-rock swagger mushroom-stamped The Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete. And we liked it! The Like Clockwork incarnation of QOTSA featuring Josh Homme, John Theodore, Troy van Leeuwen, Dean Fertita, and Michael Schuman descended upon the quaint little Mahaffey and promptly smacked its saggy, old balls.

Queens purists may argue that the band lost its element of danger when Nick Oliveri departed. This is further exacerbated by the notable absence of Mark Lanegan’s gruff snarling barfly growl. Maybe “So You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar …” lacks the visceral punch of Oliveri’s maniacal howl or “A Song For the Dead” is a little less ominous without Lanegan’s dark, throat-y croak, but the lineup now consists of consummate professionals hired to support Homme’s musical vision. So a sort of punk rock unpredictability is traded for a precise and polished sheen. They might be spit-shined but Homme’s swift and physicial removal of a stage trespasser last night hints at that old sense of danger.

A good rock show needs 3 things:

A great venue – The Mahaffey Theater is Tampa/ St. Petersburg’s best kept secret. Hell, it could be one of the best venues in the state. A pre-show conversation with an audiophile that records shows for the symphony noted the sound quality here trumps that of the Straz Center or even Ruth Eckerd Hall. The Mahaffey is generally a performing arts theater that can feature dated musical acts and Off-Broadway tours attracting an elderly crowd, but someone in-house made the completely rad decision to lure some contemporary rock ‘n roll (hip hop and comedy too) talent to this top-notch venue. This helps to bring the storied theater to a new audience and probably resulted in a spike in alcohol sales.

Killer visuals – QOTSA is generally a little scant on visual design, but heavy on face pounding riffage. Maybe it’s Josh’s relationship with Trent Reznor or just a general desire to step up Queens’ live game, but they have filled that gap. Pulsing lights accented a giant LED projection screen showcasing trippy visuals and some pretty cool animations.

Crushing music – Queens of the Stone Age took care of this part last night. They left off some favorites from the first album, but sprinkled in a few songs from every other album including “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” “Better Living Through Chemistry,” “Burn the Witch,” and “Sick, Sick, Sick” then mixed it with a heavy dose of music from their latest album including the slinky stand-out, “If I Had a Tail:”

Queens of the Stone Age will be at the less intimate (still superb) Hard Rock Live in Orlando on Friday, February 7.