At the iTunes Festival…

This year’s iTunes Festival – a series of shows held at London’s Roundhouse, spanning September’s evenings – welcomes a wonderfully eclectic cast, from Lady Gaga to Pixes via John Legend and Justin Timberlake.

Amongst the rock bookings, Queens Of The Stone Age stand out as one of the most experienced, major-festival-headlining sorts on the bill. And judging by the queues outside the legendary Camden venue ahead of their set, they pull in a distinctly devoted fanbase.

Palma Violets are charged with warming up early arrivals. The hyped foursome go at it with gusto, before a largely sober (at this point) crowd. The band’s single ‘Best Of Friends’ hits home, getting the more eager amongst the attendees in the mood for the rock to follow. As equipment is shattered at the set’s climax, few are left unmoved by the London outfit’s performance – even if it is feather-light in contrast to what comes next.

QOTSA open with ‘My God Is The Sun’, and to say the crowd is highly receptive is an understatement – watching them suddenly feels a lot like trying to stay above water in raging rapids. This intensity is taken further soon afterwards with the 2002 classic, ‘No One Knows’.

‘Hangin’ Tree’, also from the band’s ‘Songs For The Deaf’ LP, misses the growls of on-record co-vocalist Mark Lanegan. He featured, too, on ‘In The Fade’ – but that’s a live cut, originally on 2000’s ‘Rated R’, that doesn’t feel like it’s lacking anything. These older numbers haven’t aged at all, reminders that QOTSA is a band that possesses a sometimes-underestimated back catalogue.

‘Era Vulgaris’ highlight ‘Make It Wit Chu’ induces a mass sing-along, arriving ahead of another outstanding track from the same LP. “Here’s a kick in the ass for you all,” announces frontman Josh Homme – like we’ve been given a light ride so far. He backs up his promise with the delivery of ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’.

The revelation that it’s keyboard player/guitarist Dean Fertita’s birthday prompts an audience rendition of – you guessed it – ‘Happy Birthday’. Homme hands his bandmate a bottle of Patrón tequila, before the group launches into ‘Go With The Flow’, the set’s closing riot.

But, naturally, it’s not quite over. QOTSA encore with ‘A Song For The Dead’, introduced by Homme with an “Alright Jon, hit it!” Sticksman Theodore, previously of The Mars Volta, goes about ending this party with a bang.

The spotlight stays on the drummer as he does absolute justice to a track originally laid down with Dave Grohl at the kit. It’s a killer end to a triumphant set.

Words: Cai Trefor

Photos: Marco Micceri

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