Queens of the Stone Age at the O2 Arena review: returning with heft and heart – and a gargantuan light show

 (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
(Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

It’s been a tumultuous half-decade for Josh Homme and his band of swashbuckling, heavy-rock brethren. The last time Queens of the Stone Age came to the UK was in support of their 2017 album Villains – on the same tour Homme was labelled similarly for seemingly kicking a camera into a photographer's face mid-show, and he later issued an apology. In the time since, he’s been embroiled in a much-publicised court battle with his ex-wife Brody Dalle and, earlier this year, revealed that he’d been in surgery after a cancer diagnosis.

Returning this summer with musically swaggering and lyrically cathartic eighth album In Times New Roman, however, it's clear the quintet had chosen to swim rather than sink. And last night at the O2 Arena, Homme and co cemented that idea with a gargantuan light show and some unusually vulnerable stage chat (between his customarily ringleader-esque repartee). “I am f***ing nervous, but I’m here to make you dance, and I know how to do that shit,” said Homme before Paper Machete.

The vibe here was of a band re-communing with the ones that had stuck by them, rather than trying to win any new followers over. Opening with a throng of crowd pleasers (No One Knows, Smooth Sailing, My God Is The Sun), the following set veered between eras of the band’s nearly three-decade career, with prolonged moments awarded in unlikely places.

New album track Straight Jacket Fitting saw the singer dive into the audience to crowdsurf before strolling the barrier for an extended outro, while deep cut God Is In The Radio opened the encore with a long instrumental break.

While giving a slightly disordered tempo to the evening between tighter hits (Rated R cut The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret remains a career high), there was nonetheless the sense throughout of a band relishing the chance to be back that may never have come. “Life is so f***ing nuts, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. And yesterday’s gone, tomorrow’s not here, but tonight we are yours and you are mine, and that’s so beautifully, elegantly sick,” said Homme.

Ending with the gratifyingly monstrous noise of A Song For The Dead, surrounded by a barrage of lights, smoke and moshing bodies, Queens of the Stone Age’s return to the city might not have been their career peak, but it underlined the continued relevance of a band who’ve always laced the heft with heart like few others.