Words by James Farrell
After a distorted guitar chord, a scratchy scream, and the opening chords of “Everlong” the black curtain with a red Foo Fighters logo, which had completely hidden the Citi Field stage, was whisked away as if it were a magician’s handkerchief, revealing Foo Fighters behind it. At a normal Foo Fighters show, front man Dave Grohl would erupt, running down the catwalk into the crowd.
But at Citi Field, Grohl wouldn’t walk, let alone run, anywhere.
Grohl was seated center stage in a throne with a disc-shaped back, lights and a Foo Fighters logo. His leg was elevated in a cast. He thrashed his shoulder length hair in all directions, pounding the strings of a guitar and screaming along with thousands of voices. The throne began to move mechanically along the catwalk and into the crowd—a conveyor belt carrying a volatile package.
At Citi Field, Grohl described Foo Fighters as a “glorified wedding band,” and it’s a surprisingly apt comparison for a heavy alternative rock band. At its core, Foo Fighters is a fan-driven enterprise that, like a wedding band, keeps the party going at all costs. The wedding it plays at, however, is no black tie affair. Foo Fighters satisfies with the loud, brash, over-the-top conventions that define rock’n’roll. It does so with a tangible affection for its fans, instead of the self-righteous pretense that has peppered the genre’s history. Broken leg or no, the band will throw its disciples a great show.
During “Monkey Wrench,” the second song of the night, Grohl announced the band’s intentions: “We don’t do that encore shit,” he said. “We just play and play and play.” And he was right—the band played for nearly three hours straight. It covered every nook and cranny of its twenty-year library, from concert classics like “My Hero” (the only song where Grohl left his throne, using crutches to make his way down the catwalk with guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear in tow) to newer songs off of Sonic Highways. These songs, “Something From Nothing,” “Outside,” and “Congregation,” translated explosively to the arena stage. Grohl shortened the “Something from Nothing” pre-chorus line, “Fuck it all I came from nothing,” to a heavy metal screech of “Fuck it all,” and the song’s “Holy Diver”-esque bridge riff made it one of the night’s best.
When Grohl introduced guitar player Chris Shiflett, he joked about Shiflett’s love for KISS, and the band broke out into an impromptu tease of KISS classic, “Detroit Rock City.” Introductions for guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel were similarly followed by teases of their respective musical influences: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.”
Like any good wedding band, Foo Fighters came ready to play anything. “We know the first song and first chorus of every song you’ve ever heard in your life,” Grohl joked after the teases. A few songs later, the band busted out Queen and David Bowie’s classic “Under Pressure” in its entirety. Grohl initiated a crowd vote, determined by cheers, to determine if they would follow with a classic rock cover or an original. When it was too close to call, Grohl reluctantly made the executive decision and launched into the angsty Foo Fighters crowd-pleaser, “All My Life.” But he would later satisfy disillusioned voters, bleeding his solo from “Dear Rosmary” into a cover of Tom Petty’s, “Breakdown.” It was bigger and grungier than the original, as if arranged by the KISS-loving Shiflett.
Foo Fighters provides carefree, head-banging arena rock. They use the grandiosity of U2 but without the melodrama, the metal punch of Metallica without the anger, and the rock and roll gimmickry of Spinal Tap without the ridiculous self-importance. During a solo on “Outside,” Grohl, his throne out on the catwalk in the crowd, violently stroked his guitar strings against his cast, unleashing a cacophony that, perhaps on some level, was vented frustration for his broken leg. But mostly, he was entertaining, fully aware of the comedy of the act, but willing to satisfy the crowd’s thirst for something more. A few mosh pits formed in the general admission section throughout the night—little pockets of life that, from the nosebleeds, looked like sunspots in a standing room only sun.
Grohl had one selfish moment. Darryl Jennifer and Dr. Know, of the legendary punk band, Bad Brains, one of Grohl’s biggest influences, joined him on stage for two Bad Brains originals: “How Low Can A Punk Get” and “The Regulator.” Grohl called their presence “The greatest fucking moment in my entire fucking life.” He lost himself in the punk mentality, shouting, perhaps forgetting the audience and his leg momentarily. But other than that, the band lived to satiate. “All I’m trying to do is make it feel like a fucking sweaty little rock club,” Grohl later screamed to the masses. But between the throne, the catwalk, and Foo Fighters’ big personality, it felt more like a huge, gratifying, rock celebration.
Learn to Fly
Something From Nothing
Detroit Rock City (Kiss cover/tease)
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover/tease)
School’s Out (Alice Cooper cover/tease)
Cold Day In The Sun
Times Like These
Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie cover)
All My Life
Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)
How Low Can a Punk Get (Bad Brains cover, with Darryl Jennifer and Dr. Know)
The Regulator (Bad Brains cover, with Darryl Jennifer and Dr. Know)
This Is A Call
Best Of You
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