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Foo Fighters

(16 Sep 2011: Sprint Center — Kansas City, MO)

Foo Fighters performed a marathon-like, nearly three hour high-paced set on its second date of this leg, supporting Wasting Light (2011). This band continues to ascend to the clouds: the back-to-basics new LP was the group’s first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200. Their last LP, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007), won no less than two Grammys in 2008. Dave Grohl and company maintained its arena-rock status, as the band rendered a stellar, wild show despite several noticeable mistakes or misfortunes. This concert must have been the longest one that I’ve attended with a single artist. Dave Grohl was all over the place—posing, playing, shaking, dancing, running, headbanging, gossiping. All he had to do was stand in one place, however, and scores of fans would maniacally cheer.


The popular alternative band played most of Wasting Light, and left few hits from its set. Some missing songs included “Big Me”, “In Your Honor”, and “No Way Back”. Sadly, the band’s sound was pretty shoddy—mainly, for the first two songs. But it was an excellent tactic to open with “Bridge Burning”, which is a frenetic new song somewhat in the vein of “Breakout”; it inaugurates the new record also. This song led into “Rope”, and the crowd appeared only moderately satisfied. These supposed “garage” songs should have been much heavier than they were, too. In fact, it would turn out that several older, recognizable cuts accrued more praise from the audience.


In particular, both “The Pretender” and “My Hero” were, largely, well-done, and well-recognized by the rather vocal crowd; during “My Hero” singer-guitarist and show ringmaster Dave Grohl led the near-capacity crowd into a memorable sing along. Surprisingly, out of the string of new tracks, the back-to-back emotional assault of “These Days” and “I Should Have Known” were best represented. Grohl stated he was proud of his songwriting effort for “These Days”. And Pat Smear (The Germs, Nirvana) could be seen veering in admiration at Grohl during this song sequence. Taylor Hawkins was a beast on drums, especially during “The Pretender” and “This is a Call”, the only song played from Foo Fighters’ debut (1995). Furthermore, Grohl and Chris Shiflett’s guitar showdown was most stimulating; a good move it was to get Shiflett into the spotlight a bit.


As grand a set as it was, it had its flaws too. During at least two songs, the vocals were particularly inaudible during the verses; one could only make out the chorus. Two specific songs stood out. Hawkins’s vocals on “Cold Day in the Sun” for one; the other song, with Grohl back on lead vocals, and “Everlong”, arguably worse in terms of larger significance because the song is one of the band’s primary hits—and it concluded the show. Still, it was a highpoint because Grohl’s new guitar was very loud. Other times, Grohl either fumbled the vocals (“All My Life”), flat-out yelled out an exclamatory “Yeah”, or skipped lyrics (“The Pretender”). Moreover, Grohl’s attempt to fashion a Nirvana-esque anthem out of “Breakout” was awkward, not smart. Instead, it would have been nice to hear a Nirvana cover, since Nevermind would be celebrating its 20th anniversary.


But the stunning seven-song encore was most exceptional and rare for several reasons.  First, Grohl initiated it by rising up on a platform at the rear of the arena to play a stripped-down, inspired acoustic version of “Long Road to Ruin”—when everyone was staring down the stage for the band to return. It was a showy but keen move indeed. He continued by editorializing to fans about a certain Topeka church (which had protested at the gig). He sarcastically dedicated “Times Like These” to that ignoble and imbecilic organization; really it was meant for a far worthier constituency. The entire band also played two remarkable, solid cover songs: Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and Alice Cooper’s classic “School’s Out”. Petty’s “Breakdown” turned out to be something of a serenade of sorts; Grohl invited a sweet French woman and Foo Fighters fanatic on stage for that quite romantic, slow song. Bottom line: Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters proved they’ve still got their mojo and talent, and Grohl was miles away from any sense of nervousness.

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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