(Disclaimer: I have been in love with Josh Homme for many years, since first hearing Rated R at the impressionable age of 14. This love grew enormously when I first saw him and QOTSA at Leeds Festival in 2005 and has only continued to grow with each passing live show and album. I’m actually pretty sure it’s impossible to see Josh Homme and not fall madly in love… But that’s another story. Perhaps I’ll save that for a feature on ‘unhealthy rock star obsessions’?)
Despite my love for Homme, however, an intimate acoustic set at The Royal Festival Hall is a first. An incredible privilege and rare opportunity, it will certainly be a step away from the usual frenzied vigour and thrashing energy of QOTSA live shows, but – I’m sure – equally as wonderful. As Meltdown’s 2014 curator, James Lavelle, introduces Homme as a “very great friend, great song writer and part time comedian”, the charismatic front man certainly lives up to this reputation as the evening goes on, even facetiously admitting at one point – “When James first asked me to do this show, I didn’t want to… But I owe him a lot of money”.
Greeted by enthused cheers and whoops from an over-excited crowd, Homme takes a seat – accompanied only by a bottle of red wine – and ironically commences proceedings with a simply strummed, stripped back version of ‘Long Slow Goodbye’. And so begins a set of beautifully captivating songs, interspersed with witty banter in that smooth, charming drawl we all know so well.
As Homme describes his next song – a moving cover of Dean Martin’s ‘Sweet Memories’ – he is inevitably heckled by adoring fans and playfully attempts to keep them in line. And, as more whooping ensues, so do Homme’s jocular retorts – “Someone get that woman a drink so she can close her mouth!” However, joking aside, Homme actually admits to being a little nervous, without his usual thrashing band and theatrical swagger to hide behind, which is evident in the fluffing of the odd note throughout the set… Mistakes, in my opinion, that only serve to endear him – he’s a real person and his unmatched charisma more than makes up for a few dud notes.
This rare apprehension of Homme’s is revealed in his introduction to the next song: a brand new number, which he apparently wrote thirty minutes ago. But ‘Villains Of Circumstance’ is an enchanting, beautifully reflective track, highlighting the singer’s rich, swooping vocals, that gives insight into the confident rockstar’s romantic side. “You don’t know how much I f***ed that up” he admits, “But you’ll know if I f*** this one up”, he says by way of introduction to a stirring rendition of Johnny Cash’s ‘Dark As A Dungeon’. And, although no one could ever match Cash, I think Josh is a fitting tribute – both possessing that suave allure that is sure to sweep you off your feet.
“Well, this wouldn’t be a ‘solo’ show without someone else joining me”, and so Troy Van Leeuwen takes to the stage as the two of them deliver ‘Mosquito Song’ – a perfectly laid back offering, as the band-mates fuse together acoustic melodies and affecting harmonies. ‘I Never Came’ follows: chillingly seductive and engrossing, Homme’s deep, sultry vocals shine through, accompanied by intricately rousing riffs.
Now for another cameo and, as Mark Lanegan shuffles onto the stage, I feel incredibly privileged to have seen this legendary songwriter twice in the same number of days! With a majestically beautiful ‘100 Days’ followed by QOTSA classic ‘Hanging Tree’ , Lanegan’s sonorous tone and Homme’s rich harmonies sit perfectly together: the entire hall is captivated, and rightly so. However, the mood is soon lightened – as the Screaming Trees frontman hastily retreats from the stage, Homme declares “he’s the meanest guy I know that I still like… And he’s pretty much ruined things for me now, by singing so good”.
But things are in no way ruined, as Homme continues with a beguiling cover of Marty Wilde’s – seemingly appropriate – ‘Bad Boy’. The set then draws to a close with Like Clockwork favourites, ‘Vampyre Of Time And Memory’ and the bewitching ‘Kalopsia’, as he continues to joke with the crowd, at one point likening himself to Sesame Street’s ‘The Count’ as he takes another sip of red wine.
And then it’s over, all too soon. Yes, it was certainly different from the usual vigorously energetic QOTSA shows, and – admittedly – Homme’s rotating hips and snarly swagger were missed… But it was equally as wonderful, the lack of swagger being more than made up for with his light-hearted wit and louche charm, as well as the enchanting musical content. Homme’s voice alone is enough to completely captivate, and it is such a privilege to see this other side to him. And maybe I am just biased, but I don’t think that anyone with ears – or a sense of humour – can deny that Homme succeeded in putting on a delightfully entertaining and musically inspired performance.