Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing: Somebody Get a Throne

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Queens of the Stone Age | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The glam-sludge-boogie rock of Queens of the Stone Age and its singer-guitarist Josh Homme didn’t need Iggy Pop (their rough collaborator on his Post Pop Depression and its accompanying 2016 tour) to validate their sound or standing. Since leaving the stoner metal Kyuss and releasing its eponymous debut in 1998 (with the epic Rated R and Songs for the Deaf to follow, respectively in 2000 and 2002), Homme’s big swagger has been his signature – a downright brand. Yet, at Thursday night’s celebration of his newest QOTSA album, Villains, at Festival Pier, Homme found nuances on the art of swagger he may not even realized existed before working with Pop.

With a cool evening’s breeze behind them, the black-and-red-clad Queens and its front-man Homme kicked out the glam jams of “My God is the Sun” and the sudsy sludgy “Turnin’ on the Screw” with the menacing finesse of Noel Coward in a leather bar. Really, outside of Pop and Tin Machine-era Bowie, no one has made gutsy gungy metal so mannered. Hell, I think I even detected a British accent coming from the Joshua Tree, CA-born Homme. This velvet-lined shimmy worked a treat, especially, on vintage glittering Stone Age stock such as the chugging “No One Knows” and “A Song for the Dead,” as well as coolly corrosive Villains’ cuts such as “The Evil Has Landed,” “Domesticated Animals” and the aptly-titled atmospheric “Head like a Haunted House.”

The one problem that was apparent was how, quite often, much of the Queens tug-and-chug rock-outs were muddy in the mix behind the clarion-clear Homme. It was like having a salted caramel cherry on top of a mucky chocolate muck: delicious and decadent, but more definition would have been sweeter.

Royal Blood | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

The Brighton rock duo of Royal Blood did not have a similar problem as its’ White Stripes-meets-MY Chemical Romance scrawl came through loud and clear, despite its reliance on a rather sinister and distorted fuzz bass sound. Bloody. Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr made munching crunching glitter-punk as wide and woolly as a marching band as they stammered through the theatrical neo-blues of “Where Are You Now?” and “I Only Lie When I Love You.” By the time, its set had finished, you had to wonder how QOTSA could top them.

If Thursday night in Philly as any proof or pudding, Queens of the Stone Age might already be high upon the throne, but Royal Blood is ready for its kingship too.

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