Queens of the Stone Age Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, Sept 10

Queens of the Stone Age Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON, Sept 10
Photo: Lucia Graca
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Given their status as the most interesting and unique band currently gracing modern rock radio playlists, it's easy to forget just how freakishly popular Queens of the Stone Age are. While contemporaries like Foo Fighters continue to find success by putting out the same record every few years, Josh Homme and company thrive on upheaval, both creative and otherwise.

Yet they still managed to pack a truncated Air Canada Centre in Toronto while supporting their latest effort …Like Clockwork, an album that's divided fans despite doing exactly what the band have always done — zigging when everyone wants them to zag.

The unease with the band's newer material was palpable. Opener "My God is the Sun" and songs like "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" had people on their feet but slower numbers like "Kalopsia" and "Like Clockwork," which were lumped together along with Rated R track "In the Fade," had many fans running for the beer line. Queens' more aggressive, high energy numbers like "Burn the Witch" and "No One Knows" fared much better.

Not that the band noticed. Backed by a towering video screens that displayed some harrowing animations for the …Like Clockwork selections, all five members were on point, including new drummer Jon Theodore, who was welcomed with rapturous applause when Homme introduced him at the end of the night. The Queens front-man himself was in high spirits, chatting with the crowd throughout the band's hour-and-45-minute set.

Both on and offstage Homme's demeanour strikes an alluring balance between accessible and aloof, the kind of guy you feel you could have a beer with, but who might punch you in the face at the end of the night. He's more than willing to play the part of rock star off stage (with three days to kill in Toronto he was spotted boozing late into the night, only to blow off press engagements the next day). But Homme prefers to stick with his everyman vibe at the show. As admirable as that is, it can make the band seem relatively tiny given a hockey rink's cavernous environs.

A late set surge in energy anchored by a fantastic run through "Little Sister" put everything back on track before the band closed out their main set with "Better Living through Chemistry," "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Go With the Flow."

As technically adept as their encore was, the choice of two new songs ("The Vampyre of Time and Memory," and "I Appear Missing") as opposed to any of the crowd favs that were absent from the set was curious. Still the night ended on a very high note with a monstrous take on "A Song for the Dead." It might not have been the set list everyone wanted, but in most respects, Queens of the Stone Age delivered.