Josh Homme was at ease behind a Motor Ave BelAire. There was no clumsy posturing or stiff-fingered manipulation. His instrument bent to his every whim, yielding to the elegance and skill with which his hands travelled along the fretboard. Below swathes of flannel and a don’t-fuck-with-me belt buckle, his hips moved with equal grace. He stood sideways to the audience and began to saunter up to the microphone — gather ’round kids, Captain Homme’s gonna to teach you where the real swagger lies, and why you can only ever have the second most.
“Heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls,” has been Queens of the Stone Age’s motto since they first assembled, and tonight it manifested itself in a pool of bodies that subscribed to every sex and age combination there is. Homme and his boys had a stadium’s worth of hormones play with, but it seemed that the sex-fiend mind of Joshua Homme has slinked into monogamy like it once slipped into somebody else’s bed.
Having swung for the fences on the opening numbers — the coursing You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire, the wily No One Knows, the thundering My God Is the Sun, right through to the barreling hot rod that is Misfit Love — the band then ditched the blunt instruments and reached for the paintbrush to show the Melbourne crowd the extent of their palette.
Beloved treasures like In My Head got their turn on the catwalk with all the force expected of a band with the kind of diesel-fuelled horsepower of QOTSA, but it was the renderings of tracks from the band’s most recent album, …Like Clockwork, where they began to soar.
The honky tonk of If I Had a Tail saw Homme radiate a new humility that worked in concert with his braggadocio, while the band’s performance achieved its summit in The Vampyre of Time and Memory. It put the towering frontman in repose behind a piano, singing heavy enough to be heard, but sweetly enough to be understood, enclosed by his fellow musicians, together sounding like a lounge act for the end of the world.
With minds and bodies turned to silly putty, it was time for them to be moulded back into form. It was time for them to be militarised. Without further ado, the ladies and gentlemen of Rod Laver Arena welcomed their general for the evening, and his name was Trent Reznor.
The Nine Inch Nails frontman’s head was shaven down almost to the scalp and he kept himself in only black. As the unnerving pulse of Copy of A pushed the crowd towards the stage, a half-crazed look in Reznor’s eyes began to diffuse rapidly, spreading throughout the stadium. Behind him, controlled discharges of light and the slow creep of graphics onto a colossal scrim welcomed everybody into Reznor’s glorious techtopia.
There may never be another frontman who cares for his audience in the way that Trent Reznor does. On stage, one can see a brutal commitment of hours, a stunning degree of technical understanding, peerless creative acumen, and a true appreciation for the people that make it happen.
From the bruising Survivalism, to the agonisingly vocalised slow-crawl of Piggy, from the Frankenstein’s monster of Came Back Haunted, to the parasitic onslaught of Gave Up, from the auroral, expertly-played chords of The Frail, to the glitch-driven propulsion of The Warning, Nine Inch Nails remained sonically spotless and in almost dictatorial control of their audience’s experience.
Having for years offered his fans catharsis in the form acrid, angst-riddled dispatches encapsulated in crusty industrial guitars and alien electronic noise, the man who once sang about the day the world went away has created an environment of gratitude for the people who felt the same way.
“Thank-you…thank-you, that’s a tough song to sing, it comes from a time when I was really trying to kill myself,” explained a sweat-covered Reznor, having just lead the crowd through screams of “Now you know / This is what it feels like”, as pulverising strobe lights toppled the frame rate of their vision. “Let’s lighten things up a little with a song about the end of the world,” he continued, before adding, “Thank-you.” But it was the calculated chaos and convulsive finesse, paired with a masterfully engineered technological phantasm that was already thanks enough.
Gallery: Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Brody Dalle – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, 13/03/14