Words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Foo Fighters are a dad rock quandary; for a band that have been going for 23 years and released 8 albums, they seem to have always been a greatest hits, stadium rock band. Apart from Wasting Light, no Foo Fighters album has been consistently brilliant, just focusing on churning out one or two big stadium hits with a few gems for a mixed setlist. It’s almost as if the whole reason Dave Grohl started the Foos was purely to fill out monolithic stadiums, which is why the band looked in such good shape as they stood before the thronging masses in London Olympic Stadium last night.
On what was a beautiful afternoon, it was one of those stadium gigs that turn into a miniature festival, with support coming from Starcrawler, a band who I didn’t see much of but the singer got into the crowd and tried kissing everybody or something? Pretty fucking weird, no thank you. After that was Slaves, a band who rely on the same drum beat over and over again, some lazy early punk riffs and looking like they could blend into a Free Tommy Robinson march. The Kills were okay, the sound was mixed poorly leading to Alison Mosshart’s vocal being washed out, with the guitar sound a bit scratchy, and their overall approach wasn’t enough to get the crowd going. All in all, you couldn’t help but wish you’d gotten Friday tickets and seen Wolf Alice and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.
However, none of that mattered as the sound cut, and a forever-sprightly Grohl sprinted out to the four corners of the stage & down the catwalk, rattling his signature Gibson, sending the sixty, maybe seventy thousand fans in attendance into a frenzy. As soon as the rest of the band ran out behind him and the first chug of All My Life broke out, you just know that this was a band designed to do this. There is no finer stadium band than the Foo Fighters, as they hold tens of thousands of people in the palms of their hands. I’d actually just like to sit on the stage for a Foos concert and watch the levels of musical hypnotism that go into a show, because I find it incredible how much audience participation you get from so many people.
Really, there’s not much to say regarding the setlist, whilst some of us went to sleep on Foo Fighters Night Two Eve dreaming of Stacked Actors and In Your Honour, on paper the setlist was a pretty standard offering, but it was the stadium rock delivery that made the show. Following on from that, the sight of tens of thousands of people all singing Learn to Fly and The Pretender is entertaining enough. Speaking of The Pretender, it was about seventy years long, but again, the extended bridges, Shiflett-based solos and Grohl-based shenanigannary are what makes the show. Really, there’s a couple of foibles I’m gonna bring up, because I’m a bastard, but overall, a night in with the Foo Fighters is never bad value for money, only serving to be a twinkle in your eye for the rest of time.
I don’t know what it was like for you further down the stadium, as we got there too late for golden circle tickets (at 5 in the fucking afternoon, three hours before the Foos came on), despite the fact that your hero (me) put in a valiant drive to get down to Stratford in time. Er, oh, yeah, the pits sucked to be honest. Too many people with cups of Pimms looking disappointingly at the sweaty thugs pushing each other about, causing them to shrink into less of a moshpit, more rush hour at Stratford tube station.
On top of this, we need to talk about the use of phones at gigs. Now, largely, I’m fine with all that jazz, you’re more than welcome to take a photo, much like I do, or another photo, for posterity and maybe a few likes on the ‘gram, but fuck me sidewards, do you REALLY need to take a ten minute long video of Dave Grohl just talking whilst gently picking a chord, then stood there, fucking frozen in time as we all sing My Hero? Anyway, I’d really like to extend my apologies to all the people who’ve taken videos of that, and have got me calling you cunts, but, you’re cunts. Alright, you’ve paid your ticket fee and you can do whatever you want, but fucking hell, I sort of actually paid to see the Foo Fighters, not try to see the Foo Fighters through your phone screen. What I’m saying is, staring with adoration at Dave Grohl will be replayed in your mind more than a video of Dave Grohl will.
Right, anyway, gripes aside, I mean, I’m still mad, but as you may know or may not care, I didn’t give Concrete and Gold the best review towards the end of last year. However, when brought to the live stage, something happens between the mixing desk, the rehearsal room and the live stage that makes the songs sound that little bit more special. The Sky is a Neighbourhood was obviously a highlight, but hearing La Dee Da and Sunday Rain performed live has given me a whole new appreciation for them, especially with Taylor Hawkins, a man I can only hope to be as handsome as smashing the kit like a pro whilst offering beautiful lead vocals. Same goes for Run, which was easily one of the best songs I’d heard in 2017.
It was good to Rope back on the setlist as well, especially with a monolithic bridge and a Hawkins drum solo, however, it would have been nice to see something like Arlandria or White Limo also making an appearance, but as Dave reminded us several times during the set, they only have a short amount of time to play all these songs, and that they’d happily play all night, but obviously, there’s a curfew. However, Grohl alone is estimated to be worth $280,000,000, so surely a £2,000,000 fine for playing until 3am is pocket change? No? Look man, I bought a t-shirt for twenty (20) pounds, the least you can do is indulge my manchild fantasies by playing all the songs I ask for.
Of course, they could easily deal with any curfew and song issues by not playing seven year bridges (I might be reviewing a full gig, but in actual reality, I am still stood in London Stadium, waiting for them to finish the extended bridge on Rope), but that wouldn’t be fun, would it? The whole appeal of a Foo Fighters show is the towering anthems, stadium hooks and on-stage banter as they go through the band intros. For a man who’s always rumoured to be quitting, Pat Smear looks like the happiest man on the earth on that stage, I don’t think I’ve ever not seen him smile, and every time I see his warming smile, my heart is warmed with it.
Another disappointment, and maybe now I’m asking for too much, this is the second Foo Fighters show I’ve been to where there’s been no special guests for the covers. A cover of Under My Wheels by Alice Cooper with Shiflett on vocals was tasty enough, and even though it could do with being retired, Queen’s Under Pressure with Hawkins on vocals and Grohl on the drums is always a treat. But when this is a band famous for bringing out every famous man and his dog, you can’t help but feel short changed when a re-animated Ronnie James Dio and Jimi Hendrix don’t come out to do a cover of It’s Raining Men. Sure, Alison Mosshart from The Kills came out for La Dee Da, but you knew she was on the track, and that she was fucking there five minutes ago, when really, you want an unknown quantity.
This really sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess maybe I am, because I’ve been spoilt by this band before, so thee expectations are high, but it was truly a wonderful show. There’s probably no better stadium band than the Foo Fighters, and I really do mean that. For the goofball antics, greatest hits setlists and general production of the stage show, there’s no evening quite like being stood in the middle of sixty thousand people as they all sing along with you. Alright, fuck, whilst I’m still here, nothing from Sonic Highways either. But if it was up to me, they’d open with Aurora and play a 25 minute long version of Colour And The Shape, so, I guess I’ll never be happy. I mean, I’ll never be happy generally, but, y’know.
It was however nice to see Wheels, slowed down and emotional-ed up, pretty sweet with a gentle night sky and planes flying overhead too. Whilst I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about a few missing elements from the setlist, having This Is A Call, Breakout and Monkey Wrench make an appearance is enough to keep anyone happy.
But, despite the fact that I had a few gripes, nothing else mattered when the first gentle plucks of Everlong rang through the stadium before the whole band kicked in for one last time. As people stood arm in arm, screaming “If everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again” to each other, that’s when you saw the true magic of rock and roll, bringing people together in an embrace as they all enjoyed the same thing. With notes ringing into the sky, dancing with the fireworks coming from the stage, you just couldn’t help but feel it was the perfect night out. Sure, I’ve had a few gripes, but that didn’t do anything to diminish the overall experience, watching the lights dance through the sky, listening to songs written purely for the stadium.