After bumping into the curator and this year’s director of the Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival, James Lavelle, known to most as founder of Mo’ Wax ’92 and UNKLE, the excitement swells for this one-off acoustic extravaganza, led by Joshua Homme, vocalist for several bands including the widely acclaimed Queens of the Stone Age. Lavelle let me into a little secret about the actual set for the gigs proceedings.
Anticipations rising, whilst sitting in the bar next to the concert venue, it is blatant that I am rubbing shoulders at this gig with enthusiastic Homme fans, judging from the haircuts, dye and t-shirts present (and I presume I could be mistaken for being one of the die-hards from the offset). At this resolutely sold-out gig, acquiring tickets became a chore I know for some and apart from friends, family, press the venue unsurprisingly is filled with eager, and excited expressions. Although late in the Meltdown revelations, this was a one-off addition to the programme, which we should’ve possibly fathomed with Homme’s previous work with Lavelle, but which surprised in its nature.
Enjoying an overpriced beer before indulging in a cinematically unusual support, coming from The Cramps in the shape of footage from a performance back in 1984. The raw, punk and tongue-in-cheek elements incorporated into this video are perhaps a more appropriate pre-cursor for Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age front man appearing later for his headline set, with some special moments lined up.
From the moment that he took to the stage, all of my predisposed presumptions and anticipations had flown out of the window, staggeringly entering, hair shaved, suited harnessing a bottle of rouge and wine glass. Following a glass-shattering plunder of applause, wolf-whistles, elated heckling, charisma itself walked onto a stripped-down, dusky set. Aware of the acoustic, simplified components of the evening, there was no second-guessing that we would be witness to a more intimate, unrehearsed, comic night with a dapper gentleman, not short of wit but also of a blunder or two.
Clearly playing on the awareness of this persona, far removed from his QOTSA character, the audience was treated to a few rarities, which seemed to not only confuse, but make us all feel as though we were part of an exclusive party, subjected to a side of Homme that I assume very few fans will be accustomed to.
Charming us with Dean Martin and Johnny Cash covers, Memories Are Made of This and Dark As A Dungeon, I am sure that Homme faced a smug sea of aficionados intently focusing on his flawless vocals and degenerate banter. Fierce, unforgiving humour and his charismatic cool dominated the stage, as he took to his guitar and grand piano, playing with his friend and QOTSA guitar man, Troy Van Leeuwen, and comrade in the realms of UNKLE collaborations, Mark Lanegan. Lanegan, Homme, and Leeuwen treated the overwhelming spectators to a collaborative, haunting cover of One Hundred Days, all appropriately in the spirit of Mo’ Wax and UNKLE. Bluesy, husky, all three with an element of mystique, a ‘boy-band’ of the highest order.
One criticism with this gig, however, that there was complete free reign for Homme to err, and probably several times, as it was resoundingly clear that the crowd had already concluded that this gig was going to please, and every manner reacted as such, possibly swelling the artist’s ego on stage, forcing him to push his boundaries for the expectations of a Joshua Homme gig, which not always works out for the better. The lack of rehearse, abundance of improvisation clearly evident, but perhaps this all played to his comic guise.
Hanging Tree, from Homme’s musical collective Desert Sessions, pulled you intimately into this living room jam, effectively engaging. Homme’s gumption, his piffle, a plethora of gratuitous innuendos, were not the only thing to penetrate his listeners; his performance on the grand piano for The Vampyre of Time and Memory, as well as the much crowd-pleasing Into the Hollow seduced us all for a mere hour, followed by a standing ovation. Can anyone else command a crowd in the same way as Homme?! Informing us from the stage that, “there are too many things to fall madly in love with,” it would appear that one of these would be seeing Joshua Homme live, despite all the little gaffes.
Photos of Josh Homme by Victor Frankowski