At press time, every dispatch — solid or otherwise — emanating from The Spin’s collective body is shaped like Texas. Gross, we know. But anyone who spent the last week dragging ass across Austin and seeing a dozen bands a day at SXSW can easily understand why the last thing we wanted to do upon our return to Music City was go and see another rock show. Nevertheless, we hustled straight from the airport to The Ryman to catch our favorite kings of contemporary stoner-rock last night. Yeah, we roll pretty hardcore. But not as hardcore as Queens of the Stone Age, who made a desert of The Mother Church.
Unfortunately, our haste to get from BNA to Lower Broad prevented us from properly pre-gaming for such a show. Drag. Amazingly, we managed to make it to our pew amidst the pungent odor of indo smoke as the band was midway through “If Only,” the third song on their recently reissued — and undeniably badass — eponymous debut, which they were playing “in its entirety.” Upon hearing the song’s monstrous riff, and even more monstrous chorus, then catching a glimpse of Josh Homme & Co. rocking out with the devil-may-care bravado of a bunch of dudes who just made out with your girlfriend and couldn’t give a shit less what you have to say about it, our hunger for the rock was immediately rejuvenated. Sure, we were tired, dirty and ridiculously hungover — to make an understatement — but more than that we were super-bummed to have missed Queens opening with “Regular John.”
We weren’t alone in our enthusiasm for the band, and this particular record especially, as it was immediately striking how the packed house appeared enraptured in the rockers’ every de-tuned note and foot-stompin’ groove, captivated under the ominous glare of esoteric lighting that cast their shadows across the auditorium like guitar-wielding giants.
Often, instrumental sections saw the group — made up of longtime members guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, drummer Joey Castillo, bassist Michael Shuman and Dead Weather dude, multi-instrumentalist and reportedly recent Nashville transplant Dean Fertita — coalesce into a center-stage huddle where they’d stare each other down, riffing off one another as if they were playing purely for the joy of playing together, as much as they were for the crowd hanging on every note before them.
Perhaps the most imposing frontman in rock with his beanstalk stature — head cocked to one side, guitar cocked to the other and a haircut that sees him taking a cue or two from Arcade Fire’s Win Butler — Homme crooned QotSA nuggets like “Mexicola” and “You Can’t Quit Me Baby” with a self-assured swagger and enthusiasm as if he’d just written them, while the crowd responded to house-lit-stressed choruses and elongated endings like they were watching Queen at Live Aid.
"I really forgot what a music-loving audience you were [here] in Nashville," a smirking Homme said mid-show. "I'm really proud to be drunk here." As the night rolled on — and he got further into the bottle of vodka he was chugging from — his satisfaction only grew greater, and by the time the band had finished the obligatory album part of the show and moved on to selections from the rest of their catalog — like Era Vulgaris opener “Turnin’ on the Screw,” and songs for the deaf like “Go With the Flow” and a showstopping "A Song for the Dead" — Homme was ready even to take requests, to our delight honoring one for the Rated R gem “Monsters in the Parasol.”
The teeth-chattering rumble of fevered fans pounding the Ryman pews inspired a double encore that ended with the band’s signature staple “No One Knows,” the only traditional “hit” in a two-hour show throughout which the band never the let crowd out of the palm of their hand.