I have missed Dave Grohl in person like he’s actually in my family. He IS in my headline!? Ha.
I have my iPod and many memories to keep me appeased, but there is really nothing like the surreal nature of seeing your all-time favorite band grace the stage. I somehow missed the last tour (ticketmaster fees refusal and priced out of MSG, my scalper incident for a secret show) and wanted to see how my boys were doing this time around with three shows in the greater NYC area. For the first of two I’m slated for, I had to travel to New Jersey where I saw them play about five years ago for the In Your Honor tour. The name of the arena and the opening bands changed, but the Foo’s sweaty steadfast rock show has not.
They are still the best in the business, however, it is apparent they have aged and this is the top-end of their prime. In that way, they remind me of Dirk Nowitzki this last NBA season. Still enough prime and youth in the tank to win a championship, but you fear from here on forward the decline is here and we’re at the apex of the rising action. That is sad, but you simply do what you can in the present to enjoy the presence before you. Dave Grohl settling for half the album scream on “White Limo” is much like Dirk pulling up for an easy jumper, instead of going to the rack for style points. They both light up the scoreboard. Might as well save your energy…the show is totals about three hours and with the way Grohl runs literally from one side of the stage all the way to the other side of the arena—there is no room to take a break.
The biggest difference you can get from a band of this caliber throughout the years is the setlist. I know I’m kind of setlist obsessive, but really; it’s the first thing I think of for differences show to show. A band like the Foo are always going to have lights, big stage antics, banter, crowd surfing, etc. What I really look forward to is how the material is represented and what songs make the cut over the years. Notoriously, I used to spend a great deal of time looking at every setlist from every show and know exactly what’s coming up, but this time around I was able to show restraint. Maturity? The big one for me is my favorite song, “Aurora”, which didn’t make the cut this time around. The feeling of waiting for that moment it MIGHT be played, is much different than if they play a hit, and similarly parallel to NOT playing a hit.
After something like 16 years in the business, the Foo Fighters can’t begin to fathom playing all their hits and/or cult classics. Especially at the energy they play with and the way they make some of their three minute hits, 10 minute jams, like “Monkey Wrench”, “Breakout” and “Stacked Actors” which to this day continue to remain live jam staples.
I’ve never seen the Foo Fighters play a show over two hours, so with a setlist totaling 25 songs and three hours of duration, I was quite pleased with my bang-for-the-buck sentiment.
- Two stellar covers I haven’t heard them do and would never expect. “In the Flesh” by Pink Floyd with Taylor Hawkins on vocals, who by the way does Roger Waters better than Roger Waters these days (watch the performance on Fallon vs. the performance at Izod...) and “Breakdown” by Tom Petty which is at least in my Top 2 favorite Tom Petty songs. Dare I say the Foo’s rock it twice as hard as Petty!? I do.
- The stage setup. Previously, Grohl would always find a way to move to the other end of the arena. Usually with a security guard he’d have to sift through the crowd. At this juncture, they just build a Tetris shaped end for him to extend his stage presence with a path all the way across the arena, that multiple times throughout the show he runs back and forth from the stage with the band and a 20 foot riser about 50 yards away.
- From this riser, he did a guitar duel with Chris Shiftlett during “Stacked Actors” that didn’t necessarily rock my socks off in skill, but was just kind of fun. It rocked. It was simple. It was theatrical. You can’t find it on any album. Shiftlett would give the “thumbs down” to Grohl’s duel submissions and tear into a shredding solo of his own. Shifty has improved enough at guitar that he definitely made Grohl look like a rhythm guitar to his lead.
- The encore video played while the Foos were backstage. It has a night light presentation while Taylor and Dave mime to that audience exactly how many songs they are going to play in the encore while swigging beers “backstage.” It’s a good way to get the crowd going as they start at “one” and end at “six,” before coming out for a seven song encore with Dave Grohl half way through saying “we’ll play all night, I’m fucking serious” which is a sentiment I’ve only seen matched by Ted Nugent and simply slaughtered by Goldfinger (ask me about THAT story. So good.).
The new material holds up really well. This, Wasting Light, is as you may have read on this very blog, the second best album the Foos have done. I love it. “Bridge Burning”, “Arlandria” and “These Days” with Grohl introducing Krist Novacelic on the accordion saying something along the lines of, “I don’t know if you’ve heard Krist play…but he’s the Eddie Van Halen of the accordion,” was pleasing to the soul.
The only problem when bands amass this much material (DG “I don’t know if you know this…we have A LOT of sooooongs…”) is the cult classics get lost. Songs like “Aurora”, “Up in Arms”, “See You”, “Ain’t it the Life”, “DOA”, and “For All the Cows” get lost in the mixture. Even the HITS like “Big Me”, “I’ll Stick Around”, “Next Year”, “Miracle”, “Walking After You”, “Low”, etc hit the proverbial cutting room floor. I guess you can’t “Have it All.”
Seriously…they never play that one.
Rise Against and a Mariachi band encompassed the opening acts. The Mariachi band has the word Bronx in it somewhere. I’m not bothering to look it up. They were pretty cool, but obviously a little star-struck playing in such a big arena. The right time and place would help them immensely and could throttle them into a Zerfas favorite.
I’ve really gotten into Rise Against lately and found them slightly disappointing at this show. They really do rock. Like, balls to the walls hair flying back for the entire set rock. It is all rock and nothing else which isn’t really the problem. I think the problem with bands like that is they record with such high energy and technology that it’s tough to replicate live. You can get parts right on, but it’s damn near impossible to recreate that energy song after song and hit every part for the duration of the tunes. I ran into the same thing when I saw the Offspring, who Rise Against reminds me a lot of. If the Foo Fighters had to play “White Limo”, “Weenie Beenie” and “Wattershed” for 45 minutes…one would probably be disappointed as well. I value things not sounding like the album (my whole reason for loving the Foo live so much!?), but for some reason over-the-top high energy songs sound slightly flat if you can’t match the energy. The screamers are good rockers and fun for the show, but offer little sustainability. It’s like a diet of nothing but protein bars. Eventually you crave balance, yet you’re so capable of running through a brick wall right now, and there’s something awesome to be said about that.
Lastly, the true essence of a Foo show was recently caught perfectly in an e-mail conversation I had with my buddy. I sent him a video of the Foo Fighters playing “Breakdown” and compared it to a Tom Petty show we saw in Grand Rapids, MI many moons back. We were gravely disappointed with Petty’s show as it was pretty much exactly like listening to an album (the anti-Foo Fighters) and we were less than impressed with Petty’s nonchalant stoner stage presence. I would call it the absolute zero of stage presences. He didn’t even play harmonica on “Last Dance with Mary Jane” and he more or less sat on a stool and played his hits. My buddy concluded Dave Grohl is the superior rock star because, “he could sing the Barney song and it would sound awesome.”
Yes, and I hope he does just THAT when I see him at MSG in November. I’d even sacrifice “Aurora” to hear it.
Learn to Fly
Cold Day in the Sun
Let it Die
These Days (with Krist Novacelic on accordion)
Should Have Known
This is a Call
In the Flesh (Pink Floyd cover)
All My Life
Long Road to Ruin (DG acoustic solo from mid-arena riser)
Best of You (DG acoustic solo from mid-arena ri
Times Like These (DG solo for half acoustic, joins full band for rock half)
Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)
Skin & Bones