Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Queens Of The Stone Age & Chelsea Wolfe @ The Joint/ Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas. 2-13-14.

A brief family visit out of town quickly turned into a full blown rock 'n' roll expedition thanks to this well placed billboard in the middle of the desert.

QOSTA and Chelsea Wolfe? Together...on the same day we were in town. It was a sign (literally) that this show could not be missed. I'd never been to The Joint before, but heard good things about the venue. This totally made up for their sold out show at the Gibson (R.I.P.) that I missed last fall.

I was curious how Chelsea Wolfe's dark and ominous music/vibe would fit such a huge venue (approx 4000 seat capacity), but Ms. Wolfe and co.'s stellar musicianship and total atmospheric assault on the senses made the large concert hall feel like a intimately dank cave of despair...and it was bloody awesome. New tracks off Pain Is Beauty such as "We Hit a Wall" and "House of Metal" sounded so much more hypnotic live and blended in perfectly alongside the brooding jams we all know and love from Apokalypsis ("Mer" "Demons" "Pale on Pale").

After this, only my second time seeing Chelsea Wolfe live, I'm ready to declare her voice a national treasure. It's an ethereal, haunting, and amazingly powerful tool in Ms.Wolfe's arsenal; along with her remarkable songwriting skills and the talented musicians she surrounds herself with, you simply can'y go wrong catching Chelsea Wolfe in concert. Aside from a handful of frat boys dying to start a mosh pit, I'd say most everyone inside The Joint was squarely under Chelsea's spell.

Queens of The Stone Age: Round 5.
A giant screen counted down the moments before QOSTA took the stage. The band's new superhuman drummer, Jon Theodore pummeled his floor tom as he counted off the intro to "...Millionaire," and the crowd inside the venue went nuts. With the opening salvo of "Millionaire" "No One Knows" "Avon" and "My God Is the Sun," Josh Homme and his merry men certainly made the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino live up to it's namesake. The monstrous guitar riffs and the subsequent wall of sound that followed during "Avon" was awe inspiring and sparked memories from my very first Queens show back in 2003.

Josh Homme- Stone Age King
 The band took things down a notch, devoting the mid portion of their set primarily to tracks off their latest album, ...Like Clockwork. These are largely medium to slow paced songs, which found heads bobbing in unison and offered a respite from the frat boy moshing that opened, and would bookend the band's set. I'm not the biggest fan of QOTSA's last record (it's good, but I was hoping for something epic) but I'll be damned if songs like "If I Had a Tail" and "I Sat by the Ocean" don't sound groovy as hell live. The band sprinkled in fan favorites like "Little Sister" and "Make It Wit Chu" in between the ...Like Clockwork section which was fine with me. Something about hearing "Make It Wit Chu" in Vegas/Sin City made the sultry song sound even sexier. "Better Living Though Chemistry" was the biggest surprise of the night. I've never head the song live before and it was great to see Josh shredding his guitar again, especially after spending a good portion of the set crooning/smoking on stage.

The night's ending is a little blurry for me, I was busy deflecting elbows from the raucous mosh pit that erupted during the encore. Playing "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" and "Song for the Dead" back to back just has that effect on people. When I wasn't dodging staggeringly drunk bros at every turn, I tried my best to watch Jon Theodore slay his kit during the final song. As much as I loved Joey Castillo's playing (re: bashing) in QOTSA, I think Theodore brings the perfect blend of power and finesse to the table and is the perfect dude, who isn't Dave Grohl, to sit on the throne. This was probably the best Queens of the Stone Age lineup I've seen since Nick Oliveri left ages ago. Looks like I started the year off right, my first concert of 2014 was a doozy. Thanks random billboard on the I-15fwy, I owe you one.

Friday, February 7, 2014

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman

I still haven't come to grips with the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman has died. Last Sunday, February 2, 2014, his body was discovered in his New York apartment. He died of an apparent heroin overdose. I say apparent because the coroner hasn't released an official cause of death yet, but police claim he was found with a fucking needle in his arm so, I'm just going go with heroin here. Hoffman was regarded as the greatest character actor of his generation and ranked amongst a handful of others as the most talented working actor today. To say his untimely death is a tragedy would be a understatement. This whole ordeal has left me and anyone with a more than passing interest in cinema and the creative arts, absolutely devastated.

Hoffman began his acting career on the stage. I've read a flood of tributes and interviews with the man that state his only real aspiration in life was to be a Broadway actor, capable of performing his craft then riding his bike home in complete anonymity. He had no desire for international stardom. Hoffman's talent was too great however and a string of small film roles in the early 90's would catapult him into the limelight for the next two decades. Hoffman, with his bulky frame and disheveled looks was not the typical Hollywood leading man and he knew it. Instead, Hoffman seeped into the heart and soul of cinema through his incredible laundry list of supporting characters. He rarely hogged the spotlight, but onscreen, Hoffman always stole the show. His performances were rife with emotion and felt less like an actor than a literal exposed nerve. The vulnerability in his performances was undoubtedly tied to deep psychological turmoil. Whatever dark inner forces led this talented man to seek refuge in drugs also served as the conduit for some of the greatest acting ever captured on film. It's a damming double edged sword that I wish cut less deep.

Philip Seymour Hoff was one of my favorite actors. I've basically grown up watching the man. He was the douche-y kid in Scent of a Woman, crazy Dusty in Twister, and had two iconic roles in films that changed my life: Scotty J in Boogie Nights and Brandt in The Big Lebowski. Those two movies changed the way I looked at film, forever. I'm not going to list all his great roles because that would take forever. The man's filmography is damn near untouchable. Even when Hoffman was slumming in shitty films for a paycheck, he always delivered onscreen. I was fortunate enough to watch Hoffman in glorious 70mm in his now iconic performance in The Master. I sat in the theater mesmerized, as Hoffman's face was projected on the Arc Light's massive Cinerama Dome. Finally, I thought, a screen capable of sustaining this man's gargantuan talents. I felt lucky and privileged to live in a time when actors like Phoenix, Bale, Fassbender and the most consistent of the bunch, Philip Seymour Hoffman, delivered such captivating and inspirational performances. I had grown up watching Hoffman as merely a side character, only within the past few years did I become aware of/fully appreciate the scope of his talent. I thought there would be more films to enjoy. It pains me at how wrong I was.

Hoffman's death is disgusting, infuriating and utterly heartbreaking. At a time when modern culture revolves around vapid reality stars and teen pop drivel, Philip Seymour Hoffman was a national treasure to anyone with a working brain. I'm saddened for his family's loss, I'm outraged by his selfishness and weep for such wasted potential and the future greatness we have all been collectively robbed of by his passing. From the grizzly details surrounding his death, we all know he wasn't a perfect human being, but there is no doubt that Philip Seymour Hoffman was the perfect actor. He will be greatly missed.