[5 August 2008]
Call it the “Dave Grohl Show” perhaps; that would be most apropos and accurate. Sure, it was Foo Fighters that played, but it was singer-guitarist Grohl and his unyielding desire for attention, his wild and crazy antics, and his unkempt, 80s-era, glam-metal hairdo that became the predominant focus of the evening. Comprised of over twenty songs, the gig turned into a marathon. It was part standup comedy routine too, as Grohl hilariously waxed un-poetically about his arduous bout with “uncontrollable diarrhea” that led to the initial cancellation of this show which was supposed to take place in January. For over two hours, Grohl did everything in his power to make amends to the Oklahoma City crowd for the band’s postponement.
Wired and fired up beyond belief, Grohl told myriad jokes and taunted the unfortunate folks in the “shitty” and “sucky” seats (his words). He head-banged the night away, even while playing acoustically, and danced on top of an amplifier. (During a show I witnessed in Kansas City some years ago, Grohl climbed onto a restroom facility to perform.) Most importantly, however, Grohl expressed sheer joy and a recognizable and profound love for his devotion to the music. A self-professed high school dropout, Grohl proved to the sold-out crowd that he had made it doing what he cherishes. Who would have fathomed that the mousey drummer for Kurt Cobain would turn out to be so undeniably successful? Foo Fighters may lack, by and large, the kind of malaise, sorrow, and despondency of Grohl’s former band, but the band has acquired a similarly massive following. Over the subsequent years since their inception, Foo Fighters have graduated to arena rock, superstar status, and Dave Grohl could not be prouder.
Fans at the packed venue cheered Foo Fighters’ every move, and much of it was justified. Having just returned from a recent two-night stint at London’s Wembley Stadium, during which the band played with members of Led Zeppelin, the band was on a high. Confidence aside, the reality was that most of the band’s songs were genuinely superb and heartfelt, while many were more successful in the live context than on record. Unfortunately, several songs did not fare so well. An unpredictable rendition of “Let it Die” was truly worthwhile and rather spectacular, as Grohl managed to turn it into a loud, banging wall of thrash-punk. On the other hand, “Long Road to Ruin” sounded dull, unbecoming, and altogether unremarkable; it lacked the verve necessary to be impressive. Stick to the record for that song.
For “Let it Die”, a mellow song on record, logistics were impeccably planned; it didn’t hurt that it was the opener. The band took to the stage, but Grohl, who arrived last of course, continued down the “catwalk” like Kate Moss, heading to the end of the arena, greeting fans along the way. I thought, at first, it was a twisted episode of Project Runway with a delusional, megalomaniacal musician demanding adoration. But I was incredibly wrong. Grohl wasn’t cavalier in his antics, and he wasn’t playing savior to the flock. Rather, I got the sense that he was truly thankful to, as simple as it sounds, perform his music. When he strayed back to the main stage it was time to play; the confluence of the song’s infuriated, angst-ridden lyrics and Grohl’s well-timed guitar playing turned the tune into an excellently executed song.
“Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up is Running)”, also from the Grammy award-winning album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, was another fun and reliably entertaining live song. But surprisingly some of the band’s big hits fell flat. “Times Like These”, which received unlimited radio play, did not stand out amid a set of high-paced, frenetic, and grungy-pop songs. The same was true for “Big Me”, an older song in the band’s catalog. It came across as ridiculous pop candy and didn’t seem to belong on the set list. Grohl himself failed to take the song seriously; it was under-performed, as Grohl only slightly stroked his guitar, and perhaps more damning, he comically referred to the song’s video, a feel-good parody of a Mentos commercial. He genuinely seemed ashamed to play it, and probably should have been.
The band’s unusually lengthy acoustic set was also a relative low-point: “Everlong” should have been performed with an electric guitar throughout. But the unplugged set did feature a triangle solo by Drew Hester, and a memorable performance of “My Hero”, during which Grohl persuaded the crowd to sing along. Without a doubt, the best songs of the evening were drum-heavy. Notwithstanding Taylor Hawkins’s rather tedious solo, his influence on the songs “Breakout” and “Stacked Actors” was hard-hitting, punk grandeur. Better yet, the combination of Grohl’s vocals and Hawkins’s drums intensified the major hit, “Monkey Wrench”, which was rightly chosen for the latter part of the show. During “Stacked Actors” (rumored to be about Courtney Love), Grohl emphatically reinforced its caustic, satirical lyrics, eschewing all things (and beings) insincere; Grohl was unquestionably adamant and animated throughout. The latter part of the show saw Grohl transfixed with enthusiasm as he mouthed the lyrics along with the crowd as he performed. A remarkable show, however minutely flawed.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/foo-fighters/