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Queens of the Stone Age stop hearts at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage

Queens of the Stone Age | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com
Queens of the Stone Age | Photo by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com

Few moments make music lovers swoon like the moment when a band goes off book, ditching their planned setlist to play old songs, new songs, and whatever the heck else they want.

The everlasting California desert rock institution Queens of the Stone Age did just that in the middle of their electrifying concert last night at the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage. Opting to skip playing “Kalopsia” from 2013′s …Like Clockwork, frontman Josh Homme announced that the band would instead play 2000′s “In the Fade” to rapturous applause.

Moments like this littered a night permeated by a celebratory atmosphere for many. For the Queens, it’s the last US show for a while on a touring cycle that began last year. Their electrifying performance was preceded by a brutal opening set from thrash metal wunderkinds Unlocking the Truth (those 8th graders who just inked a $1.7 million deal with Sony that you’ve been hearing about) and an equally hard-hitting one from Spinerrette/Distillers frontwoman Brody Dalle (a.k.a Mrs. Josh Homme). The Queens refused to disappoint, though, and the near-capacity crowd at the Mann was ever-grateful.

From the stage, Homme pontificated on whether or not this was the best show of the tour. We’re inclined to say that yes, indeed, it was. Check out the setlist below, as well as a gallery of photos from The Key’s Matthew Shaver.

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Teenage metalheads Unlocking the Truth make Philadelphia debut tonight with Queens of the Stone Age

Unlocking the Truth | photo courtesy of the artist
Unlocking the Truth | photo courtesy of the artist

Nearly every kid that gets hooked on heavy metal has at some point slung a guitar onto their shoulders and bashed out a few songs with their friends. Hell, glance back at the late 1980s and I was one of them. But like me, most of them never get out of the basement. Barely teenagers, Unlocking the Truth have already become a viral sensation, opened for rock gods like Guns N’Roses and Motörhead, played a set at this year’s Coachella Festival, and earlier this week inked a $1.7 million dollar deal with Sony for their debut album.

Tonight, Unlocking the Truth will open for Queens of the Stone Age at the Mann Center, just the latest highlight in what has been an unlikely and meteoric career for the three African-American middle-school metalheads from Flatbush. “It’s surreal,” says guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, 13. “When we were younger, we used to have dreams of being this big when we were older, like 21 or something like that.”

It’s strange to hear a 13-year-old look back on the dreams of his youth, but Brickhouse and his bandmates have packed a lot of experience into a few years. He and drummer Jarad Dawkins, 12, got exposed to metal via the soundtracks to Japanese anime like Naruto and Bleach and the entrance music for WWE superstars. “The background for both was heavy metal,” Brickhouse says, “and I guess as we watched it a lot we got addicted to that kind of music.”

Brickhouse started playing guitar at the age of 7 with the encouragement of his parents, who supported any endeavor that their son was interested in. “My whole thing was, if you turn the TV off, you can pretty much do anything you want in my house,” says Brickhouse’s mother, Annette Jackson, who now co-manages the band with Alan Sacks, co-creator of Welcome Back, Kotter. “At one point they were ninjas, they were superheroes, they were wrestlers, and the next thing you know now they want to be a band.”

Bassist Alec Atkins, 13, joined a couple of years later and the band, then known as Tears of Blood, made it to the second round in the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night competition in 2012. They carried that momentum into their outdoor performances in Times Square. Eric Clapton drummer Steve Jordan discovered them playing in Washington Square Park later that year.

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