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Josh Homme – Royal Festival Hall, London 16/06/14

18 June 2014, 13:00 | Written by The Line of Best Fit

For a man so readily associated with brazing guitars and dense layers of sound, a simple acoustic set seems slightly off the trajectory. But Josh Homme is a man who’s up for mixing things around. Take, for example, his list of collaborators, which have included everyone from John Paul Jones to Elton John, by way of Florence Welch. Taking part in James Lavelle’s Meltdown Festival, however, Homme reveals that he was at first hesitant when he received the phone call from Lavelle. However, he ‘owed him money’; thus tonight came about.

Right in the middle of touring Europe with Queens of the Stone Age, Homme seems glad to be here tonight despite the somewhat distant personality that he eschews. The musician’s tall, built figure walks on stage after an enthusiastic introduction, suited with a glass of red wine in his hand. His presence is dense and bathed in silhouette as he sits down on a swivel chair to perform “Long Slow Goodbye” from Lullabies to Paralyze. Its sets the tone for the evening, adoring fans (boozed up, of course) clipping his every word between songs. Homme handles it with serene sharpness; he would make one hell of a stand up.

And yet, this creates an intimacy and casualness you’d be hard pitted to find at many rock shows. Homme performs a song that he says he wrote just prior to coming on stage called “Villains of Circumstance”, before serenading us with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Dark as a Dungeon”. It’s a worthy tribute to a man that had a clear influence on him, the singer channeling his vulnerability and presence. He also drops in Dean ‘the King of Cool’ Martin’s “Memories are Made of This”. However, Homme doesn’t leave the stage to himself, inviting Queens’ guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen on for the rest of the show, strumming stripped versions of “Mosquito Song” and “I Never Came”, the latter backed up by a stall-shaking drum machine.

A true highlight of the evening is provided by Mark Lanegan, his crouched, long-haired figure shuffling on stage for “One Hundred Days” and “Hangin’ Tree”. His gravelly voice adds a deeper dimension to Homme’s dark balladeer, and leaves one wishing that he would stay for more than two numbers. However, Homme and Van Leeuwen proceed with a cover of 50’s pop star Marty Wilde’s “Bad Boy”, its lyrical rebelliousness suited with style to Homme’s own sensibilities. The singer provides proof of his versatility when taking to the piano for “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, the two musicians facing away from each other. The show ends on “Into the Hollow”, Homme visibly grateful to the packed house for coming to see him.

More than anything, tonight brings a sense of admiration from all in attendance. Josh Homme is a standout talent of today’s swathe of top rock musicians, a fearless songwriter who adds that bit of edge, whether it be veering off on the odd chord or protruding lyric. Through an acoustic set he demonstrates Queens of the Stone Age’s substantial quality, as well as his composed individual ambition, which simmers as brightly as his red hair. In short, a real master who we all should be glad to have.

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