ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park; Sydney, Australia
Saturday, January 27
The Foo Fighters are a strange beast – they have been in existence some 22 years. Started, as a solo project by Dave Grohl, a dumping ground for demos he’d been building up in Nirvana’s final moments and then in the aftermath of Kurt’s death. From a tentative first tour to an established band and – well, here’s the strange part – the band gets bigger and bigger with each and every album.
I gave up listening to them well over a decade ago – their music, most of it, is awful. It’s mawkish and lyrically embarrassing, and, it’s got this attempt at crunching riffs but it’s soft and bullshit really, the band basically makes Panel Beater Music For Accountants. And I was wondering what the hell I was doing in amongst it as the first seven or eight songs tumbled out from the stadium stage. The band’s latest album is very nearly a return to form, but some of its songs are still rather bad. And plenty of those made it into the setlist. But it’s everything from Learn To Fly (the third song on this night) onwards in the band’s catalogue that I really struggle with. The self-titled debut and sophomore album, The Color and The Shape retain a right-time/right-place regard from me; they’re okay…
But this horseshit like These Days, Times Like These and Best of You…it’s as if Grohl is trying to write Bad Springsteen and settling for Even Worse Bon Jovi. (You could never tell a Foo Fighters fan that though, they think they’re listening to something up there with the best of hard rock, not a band that’s somehow better than Nickelback and Coldplay despite sounding like the veritable cross-section).
So, it was a tough first hour for me, the not-quite-bogans were lapping up average-af fare like The Pretender and All My Life and then, right when I should have been lost for good, done, finished, something happened. The Foos won me over. I gave in.
– Oh Billy! –
Taylor Hawkins (drums) took the lead vocal on Sunday Rain. It’s a good-enough song from the new one, reads like something that might have ended up in one of the Allman-esque bands that Hawkins looks like he’s still auditioning for. It was then that the absurdity of this stadium show took full flight. Quite literally. Hawkins’ drum riser lifted some 20-30 feet in the air as he played a 10-minute drum solo.
It wasn’t that the solo was good as such, it was beyond cliché, and looked and sounded more like a gym workout – but ask a Foos fan and they’ll probably hobble on over on their knuckles to protest that he’s, grunt, da.best.drummer.evah! – it was more that the spectacle, in this day and age, of a mechanical drum-riser, the token lead-vocals-on-one-song-by-the-drummer, the 10-minute elongation-jams across many of the songs, the 80m long catwalk, the use of three backing singers touring with the group for two songs only, and Taylor and Grohl’s constant Aw Shucks man-boy grins…well, it all combined, and having been beaten about the ear-drums and then watching so many bad attempts at air-drums, well, I just gave in..and…um, liked it.
Yup. If this gig had have existed only on Facebook (perfect place for it really) I’d have shoved a tiny blue thumbs-up in under its chuff. Well, why not.
Grohl, when he did get to talking, was funny. And happy. And then he played My Hero as a solo song to start with, the band joining back in after Hawkins had grabbed a drink and a fresh shirt no doubt following his Herculean drum effort. And though These Days followed. And fucking Breakout, and all sorts of other shit, I was just won-over. It was Big Spectacle stuff. And they were great at it.
It’s not often that you’re won over one hour into a three-hour show, it’s usually diminishing returns and things only get worse if you start off unhappy at a show – but not this one. (Besides, I didn’t start off unhappy, that was impossible with Weezer also on the bill. But more on that in a bit).
The band introductions bring with them novelty covers, which the Foos do remarkably well. Alice Cooper’s Under My Wheels for one of the guitarists (Chris), a spot of Van Halen’s Jump for the touring keyboardist, Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones for Pat Smear. It’s hard to tell if Smear is playing at all during the show, making the same chord shape, strumming in the same pattern, sometimes smiling, sometimes not…but fuckit. It’s Pat Smear! His very presence lends the Foo Fighters a streak of coolness. Grohl’s not a complete idiot, he knows this.
Hawkins comes down from the drums to take the mic again for a fun version of Queen and Bowie’s Under Pressure. He alternates between the Bowie and Mercury vocal parts with Grohl helping here and there. Grohl’s also on the drums for this and provides one of the evening’s biggest Shit Yeah-moments when he punches out the drum intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit. It’s a lose-your-shit thrill. Genuine. No lie. No shame.
They are on the winning streak and heading home by this point. And we get Big Me and This Is A Call from the first album, Monkey Wrench and Everlong from the second, we get a tribute to Malcolm Young and a stonking version of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock. Also, for the Australian leg of the tour Grohl plays a solo guitar piece called Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners, it was written especially for some local miners that called out for Foo Fighters’ music when they were trapped down a hole…a can’t sink any lower moment I can only guess…
Hey I maybe only “liked” about four or five songs. But the energy was impressive, the spectacle was something and it was also just downright bizarre to be in this sort of crowd. I saw a guy drink a beer out of his shoe while his mates all filmed it and took photos with their phones. He slammed the empty shoe against the ground half a dozen times in self-congratulation at his achievement. Possibly even counting in the start of Best of You. You have to worry that this is the very best of this bloke.
But it was big dumb fun. I suppose.
Weezer opened – Rivers Cuomo refusing to age, deciding instead to simply morph into Ryan Adams – to what felt like a largely uninterested crowd at that point. And though I haven’t cared about Weezer’s albums for nearly as long as I haven’t cared about Foo Fighters albums it was a class act: Surf Wax America to open, plenty of other “Blue Album” highlights too: Say It Ain’t So, The Sweater Song, My Name Is Jonas and Buddy Holly. Then there was El Scorcho from Pinkerton, Hash Pipe and Island In The Sun from the “Green Album”, Pork and Beans from the “Red Album” and only a couple of new songs. Chuck in a cover of Pixies’ Where Is My Mind (a wee promo for the fact that they link in with Pixies for a summer tour following the Weezer/Foos shows) and you almost have the proof that – actually – Weezer should be Every.Single.Band’s.Opening.Act.Ever.Always.For.The.Rest.Of.Time.
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