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Queens of the Stone Age rip it up and have a blast

Josh Homme (here earlier this year in Switzerland) led Queens of the Stone Age through its heavy-metal pacings at the Orpheum. Josh Homme (here earlier this year in Switzerland) led Queens of the Stone Age through its heavy-metal pacings at the Orpheum. (Peter Schneider/keystone via AP/file)

Josh Homme is nothing if not resilient. "Nicotine, Valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol. . . . I'll take 'em all, I can't be killed," the Queens of the Stone Age singer-guitarist boasted to an Orpheum Theatre crowd that was only too happy to hear his declaration Friday night. Then in a perfectly timed punch line, he deadpanned, "All my friends are dead."

The song, a power chord and feedback-blasted ditty called "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" (one of several from the Queens' 2000 disc, "Rated R"), went to the heart of Homme's enduring appeal a decade into leading his shape-shifting brood of psych-metal maniacs. As his band demonstrated amply (and by that we mean by proficient use of amplifiers) during a steamrolling yet taut 90-minute set, Queens of the Stone Age are an old-school metal band in search of old-school kicks. At one time or another, its hedonistic quest and biker-rock appetites have attracted as members everybody from Nirvana's Dave Grohl to the Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.

But it's also an outfit with both a sly sense of humor and playful sense of groove (the primped-out, pimped-out Prince-ly come-on of "Make It Wit Chu" was the outfit's refreshing attempt to dispense with the testosterone and all those pummeling Sabbath-style riffs, however briefly, and play something for the ladies out there). Homme was in fine, versatile voice on numbers such as the post-grunge of "You Would Know" and the desert-parched acid-rock of "Better Living Through Chemistry" and the band was never less than highly skilled, if visually somewhat staid.

But after opening with the gnarly "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire," a headbanger's ball of riffs, it took a while for the Queens to get rolling. At first, the nonstop barrage of bottom-heavy riffs sounded and felt monochromatic. But a fresh momentum kicked in during the set's second half when the band shifted dynamics and aired out "Burn the Witch," "In the Fade," and the new, excellent "Turnin' on the Screw."

The young Scottish power trio Biffy Clyro opened with a tight, if pedestrian, set of grunge metal marked by staccato riffs and sharply shifting time signatures before giving way to the Black Angels, a sextet from Austin, Texas, that fused elements of droning shoegaze with darkly pulsing psychedelia a la the Doors. The effect was languorous, elemental, cerebral, and intoxicating - weird, wonderful scenes inside the gold mine, indeed.

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Queens of the Stone Age

With Biffy Clyro, and the Black Angels

At: the Orpheum Theatre, Friday night

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