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Oldies But Goldies: Foo Fighters Bravely Played Citifield Earlier This Year


(Long before Dave Grohl bravely turned around and fled Europe, leaving peers such as Bob Dylan and Madonna to play the continent in the wake of the crimes of Paris, here is his stop at Citifield last July for those European’s who want to kow what they missed -IL)

Two songs into a stadium gig in Stockholm, former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was racing across the stage when he slipped and fell into the pit. A doctor held his foot from moving through the rest of the concert (talk about Stockholm syndrome) and Grohl had his foot put in a caste. Completely immobile, Grohl cancelled some Foo Fighters dates in Europe and hatched a plan to perform the rest of the band’s  huge, expensive and important stadium tour of the US strapped into a wheelchair.

I haven’t seen the Foos since 1997 but even with their leader stuck in a chair, they were much better now than they were then. The first four songs were stinging classic metal rock singalongs, “Everlong”,”Learn To Fly”, “Something From Nothing” and especially a huge “Monkey Wrench” were excellent examples of hard rock 2015 style. On the latter Grohl had a stop start arrangement, the song would breath for a moment before everybody screamed “One in ten”. Throughout last nights stop on their “Break A Leg” Tour at Citifield,  not a song wasn’t better than the recorded version, Or if not better, in their natural environments, the songs structural weaknesses were a useful tool: they played well.

Grohl must have been not displeased, it was exactly the way you would hope to start a big league rock and roll concert, especially, we’re not talking a group situation where anybody is going to pick up the slack at all. Pat Smear is a shadow guy by definition, Taylor Hawkins is behind the drums, and who the hell is the bassist and the third guitarist (Nate Mendel and Chris Shiflett)? “We’re the Foo Fighters, we don’t do the encore shit, we just play and play and play and play….” Grohl claimed and if they had, despite any misgivings you might have had about Grohl as a bandleader, a songwriter or the poster boy for everything so wrong with modern rock and roll, all would have been forgiven, because when they played loud and fast metal riffs over pop prosody(but never stupid or sexist or ignorant) lyrics, they did what you would hope they would do.

Unfortunately, Dave spent the next 20 minutes discussing the accident that landed him in this predicament, a complete momentum killer that had people around me in section 517 (ie maybe the worst section on the planet) shouting “Play a song”. With his beaming smile, and, truly, pleasant way with an anecdote, he wouldn’t stop and as the energy drained out it left an anti-Grohl time to think about what was wrong with these guys.

As the drummer for the greatest rock band of the 1990s, Grohl needs to excuse himself to no one, Nirvana took off when he joined them the way Costello took off when Steve Nieve joined him, listen to Bleach and then listen to Nevermind: that band sound, that glued in sound? That is Grohl. His influence hs huge, you can’t speak to an alt rock drummer without his name coming up. If he didn’t invent soft loud, he absolutely perfected it.Cobain died in 1994 and in 1996 a fifteen song demo of Grohl’s own material lead him  to form the Foo Fighters. The resulting eponymous debut album included two of their biggest hits, the perennial “This Is A Call” and proto-emo beauty “Big Me” -both performed tonight. It wasn’t Nirvana, it wasn’t even grunge, but it was a relation to grunge, it was smart deeply felt hard rock. By their second album, The Colour And The Shape,  I wasn’t buying. “My Hero” (which they also played) was a big bullshit ballad, and the only other song that mattered was “Monkey Wrench”.

On stage, they were something else again. A loud, aggressively friendly rock band, they were like your friend who keeps hugging you and calling you bro: after awhile it gets real annoying. Foo were missing link between classic rock and mainstream rock but in a lousy way:  you can draw a direct line between the Foos and Nickelback, Linkin Park, Daughtry -all these nameless, faceless, tasteless, rockers who mistake a riff for a song and an ache in delivery for true and earned emotion. This is rock and roll for people who are convinced they’re having a good time even though they are pretty sure they aren’t. The albums, including the atrocious current one Sonic Highways, were filled with cut rate riffathons, and if it wasn’t for the HBO Special -where they went from one city to another, exploiting the natives and recording their own bad songs, this turkey would never have made it past Thanksgiving.

As for Grohl, he has a reputation for being a good guy, a family man, but ask yourself this? How can you trust a man so deeply in bed with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame? A man who is such an obsequious bootlicker of every star even an inch above him the rock and roll firmament? And this: do you think Grohl’s album recorded in his garage is what you or I would consider a two car picket fence garage? Why is this guy taking out his insecurities on me? How can he have an ego so big and yet so small? And, Dave, you look like a fucking ferrett, wash your hair and shave your beard.

That’s how I can dislike (I might add not on a PERSONAL level, I’ve never met him) Grohl, he is like that ex-boyfriend who wants to get back together, he is one long “love me love me love me” and he’ll do whatever it takes to get you back -whoever you are, a receptionist at his lawyers office, a member of Rye Coalition (Rye Coalition? Led Zep wannabes, Dave produced their debut album then didn’t do a thing to help em when the label wouldn’t release it), a fan on the street -Grohl loves you. It is too needy, if he loves Adam Lambert as much as Bruce Springsteen, who does he love?  The answer is, it isn’t about who Grohl loves but how much he needs us to love him.He is like Brian Williams only in that it is never enough adulation, adoration, power, respect: more at any price.

Grohl talked a lot during this gig, it was 150 minutes and I lasted 120 minutes (bummer: I missed the great Bad Brains come out for a couple of songs) and of the 120 minutes I saw he spoke for maybe 40 minutes. Every time he got going, he stopped and started again. I am not sure if this is the Foos modus operandi or if he had to pace himself because of his injury but I do know this: I paid $75 for my different time zone seat and $7.50 for a diet Pepsi and $12.50 for a terrible burger and fries,  to see the guy perform, and I felt that he wasn’t really able to do it. That’s a huge problem as far as I’m concerned.

But what wasn’t a problem was when the band picked up steam, they were really good: a classic metal medley of “Detroit City Limits”, “Jailbreak” and “Schools Out” was a pleasure and while the Foos songs weren’t in the same league, the energy and determination they brought to their songs was excellent, the “Under Pressure” followed by “All Of My Life” was superbly placed glam meets metal rock.

“You want me to scream louder than I did last night?” Grohl asked. “I will if you want me to.” A funny line but it would have had a lot more kick if he had actually meant it.

Grade: C+

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