Victoria Wyatt reviews the Rome concert by Queens of the Stone Age
Rock in Rome 2014 opened in splendid fashion on 3 June, welcoming California rockers Queens of the Stone Age as the first act of a heavily "rock" focused summer.
Rock in Roma has upped its game this year, with a slightly new layout and new infrastructure. A larger bar area, electronic ticket reading machines and staging that seems to dwarf previous years set-ups, as well as the sheer star power of this year's festival shows that Rome is indeed a worthwhile addition to the touring schedules of more and more big-name acts.
The towering Josh Homme and the current (and seemingly stable) line-up of QOTSA performed a blistering set of 18 tracks over an hour and a half. No pomp, no posturing, just straight up riff-oriented precision rock. The setlist was a perfect combination of older, punchier material and the slightly smoother, less structured tracks from their newest album ...Like Clockwork.
QOTSA have always been more admired than commercially successful and the release of their self-produced sixth studio album ...Like Clockwork was a seemingly tortuous process involving rotating band members, collaborators and would be producers, but the stunning final result earned them their first US Number 1 album and two Grammy nominations.
The crowd in Rome reflected this success as due to heavy airplay of recent singles My God is the Sun and Smooth Sailing, new fans have been introduced to and fallen in love with the rock circus that is QOTSA, but the age range was wide.
They hit the stage fighting, opening with You Think I ain't worth a Dollar but I feel like a Millionaire and ended with the classic A Song for the Dead, the opening chords of which turned the whole front half of the crowd into a moshpit - easily the biggest I have ever seen here in the land of polite concert punters.
Homme was in quite the chatty mood, repeatedly checking that we were all right and having a good time. Little Sister and Make it Wit Chu were dedicated to "All of the ladies out there", and although there weren't many of us, it took only two suggestive hip swivels from "Ginger Elvis" to summon the appropriate loud response.
The performances of ... Like Clockwork and Better Living through Chemistry were particularly hypnotic, as being mostly instrumental tracks we witnessed every band member doing what they do best, jamming and rocking out to music which is so much more sophisticated than that written by most of their hard rock contemporaries.
Queens of the Stone Age indeed remain "heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls" (note - not sure when they said this but is quoted over and over by Homme in quotes dating back five years), and to see a massive festival band in the close quarters that Rock in Roma provides was extraordinary.
Words to the wise: If you are heading to any future Rock in Roma gigs... make sure you have plenty of cash as credit cards are not accepted at the ticket desk and bancomats are hard to find/non-existent. The venue is easy to reach by public transport (train is the best) but a nightmare to return home from, so take a friend with a car!