Jan. 23, 1999 - Middle East Upstairs: Cambridge, MA
Recording Info
no info available
Review by: Matt Ashare / Boston Globe

It's no secret that when alterna-rock bared its grungy teeth in the early '90s, it took the biggest bite out of the lucrative cherry pie that hair-metal heads had been eagerly snacking on for the better part of a decade. Hard rock got hard again, Winger became the constant butt of one of Butt-head's ongoing jokes, and James Hetfield finally got a haircut. But what separated the new breed of mainstream American metal from the old guard -- whether it came in the form of Soundgarden's screaming Zeppelinisms, the dirgy stoicism of Alice in Chains, Load-ed Metallica, and Tool, or the sun-baked brick-thick riffage of Kyuss -- went deeper than just hair-care products: the difference came down to an emphasis on substance over style, or, in some cases, substance as the absence of style. And anyone interested in illustrating that point last week would have had to look no further than the Middle East, which hosted the return of the '80s noize brigade Quiet Riot downstairs on Wednesday and the Boston-area debut of Kyuss founder Josh Homme's new Queens of the Stone Age upstairs the following Saturday.

Although it wasn't the original "original" line-up of Quiet Riot, which featured a pre-Ozzy Randy Rhoads, it was the next best thing: the reunited 1983 Metal Health foursome of singer Kevin DuBrow, bassist Rudy Sarzo, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, and drummer Frankie Banali. They'd certainly aged: DuBrow -- who as MTV Online recently reported "no longer owns any property . . . owes $54,000 in back taxes . . . lives with his mother, and . . . can't even afford a car" -- is 43. But you wouldn't have known it from the four flowing manes of ungraying hair on stage. Or from the predominantly young capacity crowd, which did feature an unexpectedly large contingent of pierced and hair-dyed punks of the sort who wouldn't have been caught dead at a Quiet Riot show 10 or 15 years ago. No, what dated Quiet Riot was a combination of Cavazo's screeching solos, DuBrow's preen-and-swagger routine, and the band's unironic delivery of headbanging anthems like, well, "Bang Your Head."

If Quiet Riot were literally a throwback to metal's dominant '80s alloy, then Queens of the Stone Age represented a figurative regression to the sort of primal musical ore the cavemen might have mined if they'd had Marshall amps, fuzzboxes, and wah-wahs. In front of a sweaty full house and thoroughly shrouded in smoke-machine clouds, Homme and his Queens (former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri and drummer Alfredo Hernandez, plus a keyboardist) added a bit more fuzz and muscle to a selection of surprisingly hooky tunes from their Queens of the Stone Age Loosegroove debut. They left plenty of room for acid-blooze guitar jams and head-banging beats, and absolutely none for big hair.
Josh on Feb. 4, 1999

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