October 14, 2011
It's tough to accurately shorthand an experience like last night's show at the Forum. To call it a religious experience would be clichéd, to say it was the best concert I'd ever been to would be heavy-handed but true. Either way, it's practically indisputable that Dave Grohl and his cohorts of 16 years (you may have heard of them) were nothing less than massive as they bellowed, screeched, soloed and jammed out through the second of two hometown shows.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Grohl uttered in the low, smug machismo that every real rock star should have, "Get comfy. It's gonna be a long fucking night." And it was. The colossal 24-song setlist belied the true span of the Foo's outing. Elongated, repeated endings of songs frequently snapped the crowd back into its place, as if to say that nobody should ever assume that Foo Fighters are done playing until the last note hits, but were so natural that you might feel a slight longing the next time you decide to listen to There Is Nothing Left to Lose and aren't faced with bluesy interludes and a tremendous guitar battle between Grohl and Chris Shiflett during "Stacked Actors."
The night embodied a hard rock mentality that the Foo seem to know has gone missing from the world, Grohl saying between songs how he's glad everyone in that stadium can be sure they're watching people play instruments free of any click-track. He then told the story of when he told Butch Vig that if he tried to insert a computer into the recording process of Wasting Light that Grohl would chop his testicles off and feed them to his dog, warning everyone in the audience to make sure there is no man behind the curtain at the next concert they attend. Their set wasn't all throwing punches and guitar solos, though; Grohl's banter provided the crowd a few seconds needed comedic relief from headbanging.
To say that Grohl a showman would be an insult to how charismatic he truly is. I might be abnormally susceptible to on-stage charm, but when Grohl starts a back-and-forth with Taylor Hawkins or breaks before the last chorus in "Monkey Wrench" to giddily tell the long and winding tale of how he once played "Whole Lotta Love" in a jam session with Prince, I can't help but notice there's a reason why Grohl is so famous, why he's involved with so many other bands projects and why everything he touches seems to turn into gold (I'm looking at you, Cage the Elephant). I've long considered Grohl to be the defining rockstar icon of this generation, and it's not like he was going to prove me wrong. Instead of addressing the crowd, Grohl instead chose to scream into the microphone toward the beginning of the set, only receiving that same scream back 18,000-fold in a call-and-response style screaming match.
Grohl by no means stole the stage, though I'd be lying if I said the Foo's frontman didn't attract most of the attention. Save some smirks and glances to each other during Grohl's longer bouts of stage banter, the band barely did anything to detract attention from the black-haired, bearded icon besides perhaps a few quips from Hawkins here and there. Still, Grohl made no attempt to seem like he was Foo Fighters in its entirety. Hawkins' pouting rasp on "Cold Day in the Sun" and "Breakdown" was refreshing enough to make me wish there was a Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders aftershow going on somewhere in LA (wouldn't that have been cool?) and Grohl's introduction of Nate Mendel as "handsome" and "extremely athletic" seemed enough for the smiling bassist who always seemed like kind of a bashful dude.
The aforementioned sharing of glory notwithstanding, Grohl took center stage (in the literal center of the venue, on a raised platform in the approximate middle of the floor) during the encore. A backstage, muted night-vision broadcast of Grohl and Hawkins shticking on how many songs to play in the encore (2... 3? The crowd cheers. Grohl touches his ear. Crowd cheers more. Hawkins comes in and holds up four fingers. Crowd cheers more. Grohl protests. Crowd boos. Grohl gives in. Crowd cheers louder and louder and louder. Repeat to seven songs.) prefaced Grohl's solo acoustic blast through "Long Road to Ruin" and "Best of You."
"I'm not what you'd call 'classically trained,'" Grohl jeered before turning attention to his (of course) black acoustic with "Times Like These," halfway through which the band broke in. With his famous clear electric guitar, Grohl and his Foo Fighters brought out special guest Fee Waybill from the Tubes for "Miss the Misery." An unexpected but extremely welcome cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Breakdown" was the last song before the one that most of the audience would have felt remiss without: "Everlong."
Even though some had already started to leave halfway through the encore (what the hell, people? I mean, really) and some of the less youthful fans in the crowd had run out of steam somewhere in the solo acoustic act, everyone in the venue was on their feet for the last and arguably most famous of the Foo's career. It's by design, of course, that this is the last song; Grohl and (what was left of) his 18,000-person choir passionately crooning "If anything could ever feel this real forever / If anything could ever be this good again" is going to invoke emotion from the sweaty, dehydrated, half-drunk mass of people in the crowd. Even though it's meticulously planned, even if it ends every show, "Everlong" is a standing testament to why the Foo Fighters have such massive appeal. They make concert-goers feel like the night couldn't be replicated, even if every song were played the exact same.
"I wouldn't be here tonight if it weren't for you," Grohl said, and people believed him.
Critic's Bias: In 2008, three of my best friends and I drove out to Colorado to see Foo Fighters play Red Rocks Amphitheatre, but the concert was canceled last minute because Dave Grohl was sick. One could say that this concert has been a few years coming for this writer.
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The Crowd: Happy drunk people of all shapes and sizes (and their kids).
Overheard in the Crowd:
"Dude, I'm so drunk right now. You think chicks will still go for me if I'm this drunk?"
"See that yellow dude? Go distract him and we'll jump over the gate. Please? We really have to get down there."
"Follow me, I'm tall!"
"I'm gonna, um, gonna, um, I'm--more beer."
Random Notebook Dump: The youngsters next to us at the show asked everyone in our general area of seats to help them distract security while they jumped a fence (down about 10 feet) onto the floor section. I hope you made it, kids.
"Learn to Fly"
"Cold Day in the Sun"
"I Should Have Known"
"In the Flesh?" (Pink Floyd Cover)
"All My Life"
"Long Road to Ruin"
"Best of You"
"Times Like These"
"Miss the Misery"
"Breakdown" (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Cover)