After falling off the stage last month at a show in Sweden, Dave Grohl didn’t realize he had broken his leg, as he decided to continue the performance (with some assistance). Following some surgery, he unfortunately realized how much damage he had done (and posted his x-ray photo online) and the Foo Fighters had to cancel their remaining European shows. Their next scheduled show was on July 4th in Washington D.C., dubbed their 20th Anniversary Blowout (from the release of their self-titled debut) and featured numerous others artists on the bill. It was hard to believe the band would cancel this show, so I continued planning on attending the show at RFK Stadium. I was very excited to photograph the gig too, not only because it would be Grohl’s return to the limelight after his surgery, but because RFK was the place for one of the earliest gigs I attended and it would be memorable to cover a huge event there.
For Grohl, RFK would be a “hometown” show of sorts, as he grew up a half hour away in Springfield, Virginia, visiting D.C. venues like Blackcat and the famed 9:30 Club for shows in his punk days. And it was one, he proclaimed, “I would never ever have cancelled”. For this celebration, the Foos invited many of their friends, some of whom were featured in their Sonic Highways series based on the development of the album of the same name, but none of whom came out as guests during their set.
By the time I arrived at the venue, the torrential downpour meant security had to bring in everyone from the floor and delay the performances (I missed Joan Jett and Trombone Shorty’s sets). But from up above, as the rain started to clear a little, I watched people rush the stage when finally given the all clear ahead of Gary Clark Jr.’s set. He and Heart had sets that were unfortunately made shorter by the downpour, but Clark boldly brought the stadium back to life as he kicked off with “Bright Lights”. Heart, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, followed up with a powerful set of their own including their numerous classic hits like “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda” with Nancy often making wild leaps while wielding her guitar.
When the stage rotated to reveal DJ Z-Trip, the audience knew LL Cool J wasn’t far behind. The pioneering rapper joked to the audience that he knew it was their “first LL Cool J show”, as it was for me, but at least I was familiar with a number of his songs and was awed to enjoy “Mama Said Knock You Out” from the photo pit. Midway through his set, freestyle dancers got on stage to back him up through other songs like “Rock the Bells” and Z-Trip continued to power the beats. Ever the classy gentleman, LL wrapped up his set by handing out roses to lucky ladies in the audience.
Buddy Guy, and later his 16-year-old protege Quinn Sullivan, smoked the audience with their guitar prowess. I unfortunately didn’t know his music too well, and many in the audience didn’t either as he made sure to scold the audience for not singing along to his songs properly. But Guy’s smiles and the light in his eyes verified he was genuinely having a good time and never really perturbed by the audience. Trouble Funk, D.C. natives and go-go/funk band followed after Guy, as Grohl wanted to showcase the go-go scene (a Baltimore/D.C. style a little and acknowledge a band that was around when he was growing up in the area.
Finally, the Foos loaded in behind a screen, which dropped to reveal the Guitar Throne, a seat inspired by Game of Thrones iron throne and made with guitar necks instead of swords, with Grohl seated atop it and his leg raised and stretched out before him. No matter how funny it may have looked, Grohl, who seems like one of the most genuine dudes in rock, was gonna make the show work, whipping around his hair despite being seated. And for the next two and a half hours or so, the Foos blazed through a set that featured heavy hits like “Monkey Wrench”, “These Days” and “Something from Nothing” (my favorite from the Sonic Highways (but sadly I missed it as I was leaving the photo pit to make my way to my seat during this song). The band mixed things up a bit and included a cover of Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure” after performing “My Hero” and “Times Like These” acoustic from the front of the thrust where Grohl waved his crutches in the air, free from the throne for a little while.
Grohl’s chair wasn’t the biggest visual spectacle of the evening however. Grohl admitted the band wasn’t one to do encores where they walk off stage — when the Foos called it a night, they meant it. The triple thrill that was “This is a Call”, “Generator” and “Best of You” lead into a finale of fireworks lighting up the arena. It was America’s birthday after all but the explosions were also a fitting conclusion for a band celebrating such a huge milestone in their career. I can only imagine how proud Virginia Grohl, Dave’s mother, who appeared on stage before “For all the Cows”, must have been to gaze upon the tens of thousands of people who were celebrating the band’s achievement. An achievement that is almost the glimmer of a powerful musical legacy — Grohl gave the audience hope that the 20th anniversary celebration could turn into annual event.
Full video of the Foo Fighters show:
Foo Fighters setlist:
Learn to Fly
Something From Nothing
Cold Day in the Sun
My Hero (Acoustic)
Times Like These (Acoustic)
Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie)
All My Life
For All the Cows
Alone + Easy Target
This Is a Call
Best of You
Foo Fighters Tour Dates:
07/13/15 – Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center
07/15/15 – New York, NY – Citi Field
07/16/15 – New York, NY – Citi Field
07/18/15 – Boston, MA – Fenway Park
07/19/15 – Boston, MA – Fenway Park
08/12/15 – Edmonton, AB – Rexall Place
08/13/15 – Calgary, AB – Scotiabank Saddledome
08/14/15 – Walla Walla, WA – Gentleman of the Road Stopover
08/16/15 – Denver, CO – Fiddler’s Green Amphiteatre
08/17/15 – Denver, CO – Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
08/19/15 – Maryland Heights, MO – Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
08/21/15 – Kansas City, MO – Sprint Center
08/22/15 – St. Paul, MN – Xcel Energy Center
08/24/15 – Detroit, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre
08/25/15 – Pittsburgh, PA – First Niagara Pavilion
08/27/15 – Indianapolis, IN – Klipsch Music Center
08/29/15 – Chicago, IL – Wrigley Field
09/11/15 – Vancouver, BC – Rogers Arena
09/12/15 – George, WA – Gorge Amphitheatre
09/14/15 – Portland, OR – Moda Center
09/16/15 – Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
09/19/15 – Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
09/21/15 – Los Angeles, CA – The Forum
09/22/15 – Los Angeles, CA – The Forum
09/24/15 – Chula Vista, CA – Sleep Train Amphitheatre
09/25/15 – Phoenix, AZ – Ak-Chin Pavilion
09/27/15 – Albuquerque, NM – Isleta Amphitheater
09/29/15 – Oklahoma City, OK – Chesapeake Energy Arena
09/30/15 – Wichita, KS – INTRUST Bank Arena
10/02-04/15 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits 2015
10/04/15 – Atlanta, GA – Centennial Olympic Park
10/05/15 – Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
10/07/15 – Memphis, TN – FedExForum
10/09-11/15 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits
10/17/15 – Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
10/18/15 – Castaic, CA – 2015 Love Ride