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Queens of the Stone Age with Phantogram and The Armed - Cross Insurance Arena (Portland, ME) - Aug 11th, 2023

13 August 2023

“There’s nothin’ to save, and I know
You live ‘til you die”

Josh Homme has been through some shit. A bitter divorce and subsequent child custody battle that played out in public with damning accusations from both sides, two brushes with health-related issues, and the loss of a fellow bandmate and friend. And, a global pandemic as a dancing partner for much of this.



He sang Mark Lanegan’s part for “In The Fade” and it was one of the most emotional songs I’ve heard in a while, darkly cathartic but still hopeful that better days are ahead. (It didn’t hurt that it’s my favorite song of theirs and one I’d not heard them play before after seeing them play five shows, but still I doubt I was alone with my feelings).



Homme and company are riding a wave, that’s clear. As one of the progenitors of Desert Rock via his work in Kyuss, over the last twenty five years Queens have carved out a deep canyon of powerful and notable songs and in the process gained enough crossover appeal to play arenas. I bet John Garcia didn’t see that coming. After what I consider a slight dud in Villains the band rebounded with a really strong record and looked loose and joyful while going through some of it tonight. “I had no idea how amazing you guys would be. I don’t talk shit but you are amazing,” Homme addressed the crowd early on. It seems like half the song titles are fashioned after some sort of pun, including the title. “Paper Machete” was played by request after someone shouted out for it, and was clearly written about Brody Dalle, Homme’s ex-wife. “Tell the man to go fuck himself” was the introduction to “Made To Parade, a song about how corporations bleed their workers to the last drop.



To underscore how much I liked this set, even a couple of standards but kinda-past-their-welcome songs truly resonated with me tonight, the somewhat stilted funk of “Smooth Sailing” getting a bit slinkier and sexier, and “Make It Wit Chu” gaining new life with a reworked intro and the outro tacking on the Stones’ “Miss You” riff. The last time I saw Troy Van Leeuwen (tagged by Homme as the best-dressed man in rock) he was filling in for Captain Sensible on The Damned’s tour last year and his versatility is hard to overstate. Slide guitar, staccato bursts, equally at home with lead or rhythm duties – he’s Homme’s right hand man for a very good reason.



The rush of “In The Fade” didn’t let up, and no one could argue with the “Go With The Flow” > “A Song For The Dead” finishing touch as the band eschewed the theater of leaving the stage for an encore, just emptying the chamber of the gun with the bullets they had left. I’ve seen a lot of shows this year, including part of their set at Boston Calling earlier this year and tonight’s show was easily in the top 10.



Phantogram is essentially a duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter but they brought on a couple of others for the live set, a drummer and a keyboard player who occasionally played guitar. High energy dance rock? Bedrock beats forged from the hip-hop crucible? Angelic vocals from the dream pop realm? The band is all of this and more, Barthel constantly stalking across the stage and Carter coolly laying down some mean riffs and lending vocals in the process. “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” shared some DNA with Arctic Monkeys especially if you forget the keyboard part, and they celebrated the recent reissue of their debut record by ending with “When I’m Small,” a clear crowd pleaser.











The Armed have nothing if not confidence, the metadata in their band URL proclaiming them as the world’s greatest band. Loosely a collective that features some core members and some guests (Van Leeuwen being one of them on the last record, Ultrapop), the band is a ferocious beast on stage. Singers trade off, guitarists trade off, in the midst of dark clouds of brutal screamo, blue sky patches of synth work their way in. A quick rifling through the band’s collective record collection would be sure to include some Converge titles and it’s not surprising that both Ben Koller and Kurt Ballou contribute to 2021’s Ultrapop. Like their music, the physical presence of the band just ripples with strength and power; seriously, these people look like their day jobs are crossfit instructors. The perfect fuse to light to get things going tonight.