Is there a better spot in Wales to watch a band – in this case US rock royalty Queens Of The Stone Age – on a summer evening than Cardiff Castle these days? A stroll through leafy Coopers Field, past the cricket-going crowd heading toward Sophia Gardens, and toward the looming castle is a great way to start the evening.
Organisers Orchard Live have done a tremendous job of making the most of the castle’s yard: the sound is the best it’s ever been in here and, although tonight is a sell-out, there’s space aplenty, a range of decent street food options and, crucially, a trip to the bar is a brief and friendly experience.
After a warmup DJ set courtesy of local club staple Press Play With Stacey, openers Coach Party blast out their bubblegum powerpop to a receptive crowd basking in the early evening sun. There’s no better setting to hear the upbeat Isle Of Wight quartet. They’re tight and confident, having toured relentlessly in recent months, and despite being a much more sonically lightweight proposition than tonight’s headliners they go down a storm.
Bounding out to the incongruous strains of Peggy Lee, a bearded Josh Homme grins ear to ear. Draped in y ddraig goch (an easy way to scratch up an early win with an already adoring audience), Homme’s huge frame towers over the lip of the stage as he surveys his crowd. He seems genuinely delighted to be back in Cardiff and after a brief greeting, he and his black-clad bandmates slam into gear with a pounding Go With The Flow.
The setlist after that is a blur of mid-paced, elephantine grooves old and new, which sees dustclouds kicked up in front of the stage until Make It Wit Chu slows things down a touch and provides the backing track for some call-and-response crowd-work from Homme. It’s easy to imagine that the QOTSA main man might have the band’s massive forthcoming Glastonbury set on his mind. Still, he displays puppylike and seemingly genuine enthusiasm to be here throughout the band’s near-two-hour set, noting his regret that it’s taken 20 years to make it back after their first appearance.
Eschewing an encore, the band close on a trio of older songs: a glorious version of In The Fade (from 2000’s Rated R) is dedicated to the late Mark Lanegan, following which they hammer through God Is In The Radio, closing a fantastic evening on a frenetic Song For The Dead.
Queens Of The Stone Age, Cardiff Castle, Fri 23 June
words HUGH RUSSELL
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