“We can start playing classic rock and turn this show into a four-fucking-hour night…is that what you guys want?!”
I think you can guess what the response was to Dave Grohl’s question.
After ripping through a solid 45 minutes of hits, Dave decided it was time to introduce the band to any unfamiliar folks out there. In what I choose to believe was an improvised moment, guitarist Pat Smear played a little riff to show off his skills, followed by Grohl suggesting, “Not that. You gotta give them some Detroit shit.” A terrific medley of Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop followed, then the unmistakable riff of “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss sent the crowd into a frenzy. Grohl cut the Kiss riff short, followed by being nearly booed off stage. They played the whole song, and then gave us the aforementioned inquiry about a four-hour gig. We loved it, and then Grohl went back to introducing the band. How could that not be improvised?
That is the essence of Foo Fighters. They could take requests to do cover songs all night if that’s what the crowd wanted, but instead they have 15-20 rock anthems nearly everyone on the planet has heard and kind of likes. But most importantly, they LOVE to do both.
I remember seeing Kings of Leon once and I couldn’t help but notice how miserable they all looked to be playing. I have to cut them some slack, it’s a band comprised of three brothers and the their cousin. Think of your family members, the ones you can barely stand being around, even just for the holidays. Now think of starting a band with them, and touring with them. On a tiny tour bus with each other. In a recording studio with each other. Everyday. For 15 years. You might be kind of miserable too.
But, Foo Fighters have been around from 20 years! And they seem to still love playing with each other. You can see from the way they interact, kind of fucking with each other and making jokes. You don’t do that if you’re miserable. I actually find the Kings of Leon sound to be much more interesting than Foo Fighters. I think they explore more. Foo Fighters have a bunch of songs that sound exactly the same to me. They aren’t terrible, but how much can I care about a song I have heard you write a dozen different times for 15 years?
The best song of the night for me was from their new album Sonic Highway called “Outside.” EVERYTHING about the show changed for this one song. The lighting was different, they started to fill the stage with smoke, and they stripped down their sound. It featured a 6-minute guitar solo from Grohl as we got only a slow melodic bass line and drum beat to accompany him. It was a psychedelic sound produced with no other match the whole set. I wanted to hear more tracks like this, but alas, we got right back to Grohl screeching into the mic that everyone came to see. I was worried for the Foos after seeing the opening act, Royal Blood. I immediately thought of how awkward it is going to be when the openers rock WAY more than the headliners.
Royal Blood were worth the price of admission, and full disclosure, I went to the show strictly to see them. This was my third time seeing them, and was by far the most impressive performance. To be the band most of the crowd just wants to get the fuck off the stage seems like an impossible place to be in, but they won over the whole audience by the end. The drummer, Ben Thatcher, is in a class of his own. He brings such a thunder to the show it’s almost frightening. Not in a scary way, in more of a “How can I get caught off guard with the power of his drums every time?” kind of way.
Since seeing them the last time in December, Royal Blood have become much better showmen, especially front man Mike Kerr. He worked the crowd like a true front man should. Extended guitar riffs to get the crowd’s attention, egging them on to be louder than their last effort to “make some noise,” and having a bit of a sense of humor. At one point mentioning how they were in the undesirable position of being the band no one really came to see. At the end of their testosterone fueled, rager, “Out of the Black,” Kerr joined Thatcher on his drum riser and used one hand to continue the riff and the other to annihilate the crash symbols. A really powerful performance to end a set that I imagine converted a few fans that may have otherwise never known Royal Blood.
Overall, I was much more impressed with Royal Blood. I had high expectations for them and they were greatly exceeded. Foo Fighters were exactly what I expected them to be: loud, energetic, and most importantly, fun. The Foo Fighters don’t break new ground with their sound, but it’s impossible to argue with the smile I had I my face for the entire two and a half hour set. Grohl knows how to put on a great show, and it will never be compromised, especially not for a broken leg.
Some lingering questions I had:
Why does Grohl chew gum during the show?
Am I alone in thinking it’s lame to listen to the band you are about to see perform during your tailgate? While walking to the entrance, I think I heard the entire Foo Fighters catalog from various cars.
Who’s idea was it to position a camera focused on drummer Taylor Hawkin’s face? Seeing the strain in the face of a drummer from two feet away, in high definition, is something you never un-see.
Setlist (via Setlist.fm)
Learn to Fly
Something From Nothing
I’m the One
(Van Halen cover)
(Alice Cooper cover)
I Wanna Be Your Dog
(The Stooges cover)
Detroit Rock City
Cold Day in the Sun
(Queen & David Bowie cover)
All My Life
Times Like These
(Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
(Van Halen cover)
This Is a Call
Best of You