Foo Fighters’ Tour Is An Unabashed Rock Extravaganza — Review
Sixteen years ago, I interviewed Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, who were promoting their 2002 album, One By One. I mentioned that I'd seen them on their prior tour, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Grohl noted that it was "weird" to him that his band would be headlining some of those same arenas and amphitheaters on their upcoming tour.
Hawkins grinned and shrugged, as if to say, "I don't think it's weird!"
As anyone who has seen a Foo Fighters performance in the past decade-plus knows, Hawkins' instincts were right on the money; they've become the quintessential arena rock band of this era. Grohl is still the guy who loves metal, punk and indie bands like Husker Du, Sepultura, Bad Brains, the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and Venom (at one point in the show, he tested out a new guitar by playing the Dio-era Black Sabbath classic "Mob Rules").
But when the Foo Fighters hit the stage, they are competing in a different league: as a live band, they're more like Queen, Rush, KISS and even Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Like those bands, the Foo Fighters regularly play to huge audiences. They're equal to the aforementioned artists when it comes to playing a two-hour-plus rock show, and thrilling everyone from the VIP section to the last row in the cheap seats.
Last night at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Long Island, New York, the Foo Fighters brought their tour for their latest album, last year's Concrete and Gold. It felt less like a promotion for that album than a celebration of their entire two-decade-plus career and a celebration that they've maintained such a huge level of popularity, despite the entertainment media's frequent trope that rock and roll is dead.
"I love rock and roll!" Grohl shouted during an extended instrumental jam in the middle of "The Pretender." "Do you love rock and roll?" The sold-out crowd of 18,000 -- which included teenage fans and fans in their 50s roared.
Rock and roll, of course, is what the people came for, and that's what they got. "All My Life," "Learn To Fly," "The Pretender," "The Sky Is A Neighborhood," "My Hero," "These Days," "Walk," "Monkey Wrench," "Run," "Breakout," "Best of You," "Big Me," "Times Like These," "This Is A Call" and the obvious encore, "Everlong" were all there. There were also deeper cuts, including "Let It Die" and "Sunday Rain." But the Foo Fighters have too many classics to pack into a three-hour show --particularly as they tend to stretch out the songs a bit. (Songs that they didn't play include "I'll Stick Around," "Wheels," "Stacked Actors," "Walking After You" and "Something From Nothing"). Sometimes the extended jams serve to accommodate a guitar solo, but more often, it's for what we can refer to here as a "Grohl solo." The guy who once wasn't sure the Foo Fighters were an arena band banters with the audience almost as much as Springsteen. That's an observation, not a critique: in both cases, the audience loves it. The fans don't just love the songs, they love Dave Grohl.
And those moments are often the most fun. For example: during Nate Mendel's bass solo, he first played Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust," before Grohl requested another song: "You're The One That I Want," from the Grease soundtrack. As they played it, Danny Zucco himself -- yes, John Travolta -- sauntered on stage with a black leather jacket (in 80+ degree heat, no less). No, he didn't sing. But still, it was a classic Grohl-orchestrated moment.
That led into their weird mashup of John Lennon's "Imagine" and Van Halen's "Jump." From there, Grohl nodded to his punk rock roots with a cover of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop." Then, singer Luke Spiller from the opening band, the Struts, joined the Foos for Queen's "Under Pressure," with Grohl getting on the drums and Hawkins singing the David Bowie parts, as Spiller took Freddie Mercury's.
Grohl left the kit and picked up his guitar again, and was replaced by Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as Hawkins remained on the mic for another cover: the Faces' "Stay With Me."
As Smith left the stage and Hawkins returned to the drums, Grohl recalled the aforementioned Red Hot Chili Peppers/Foo Fighters tour, thanking the L.A. band for bringing them to big venues. Over a decade later, both bands consistently sell out those same arenas.
Earlier in the evening, the Struts played a similarly unabashed '70s inspired rock and roll set, which also included a Chad Smith guest spot: he joined the band for Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." Singer Luke Spiller told the audience, "We know none of you are here to see us." In point of fact, there were more than a few young fans in the audience wearing Struts shirts, and there was a big crowd in the general admission area by the stage for their set. And as Spiller sang in the first song, "Put Your Hands Up," "We're the future with the flavor of the past!" So -- who knows -- in a few years, we may see Grohl and Hawkins joining them on stage when the Struts are headlining huge venues. And if that happens, they'll surely have an exciting new rock band opening for them, too.