“It took you guys 16 f**king years to get here. But that’s ok, we’re glad you’re here,” was Dave Grohl’s greetings to all the fans who were experiencing their first Foo Fighters concert, on November 11th, 2011, at the Verizon Center. There is perhaps only one adjectival phrase in the music world that can describe the scope of the Foo Fighters’ show; of Springsteen proportions. The Foos hit the stage at 9 o’clock sharp, following impressive, if not slightly poorly amplified, opening sets by The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion (for you classic rock fans, Social Distortion closed with an interesting rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”), and then played for the next three hours; with the same intensity and energy that they hit the stage with.
The most notable thing about the Foo Fighters is the fact that they looked like they were all having the time of their lives. Granted, most bands, one would hope, would be excited playing a sold-out arena, but the Foo Fighters especially really looked like they were having a blast. Of course, about half of this came from the fact that Dave Grohl, seeming to be possessed by the spirit of Rock N’ Roll, never seemed to stand still for the entire show, either moving around the stage or moving his body throughout. Grohl’s energy that night was even more elevated by the fact that, “this is the first time I sold-out the big ass arena in my hometown.” So a sort of homecoming for Grohl led to one monster of a show, one that went by faster than it seemed, and that I did not want to end.
The Foo Fighter’s only set the baseline with, what I consider to be the most high-octane concert opening I have seen, with “Bridge Burning,” from 2011’s Wasting Light. Even though it was only the first song, Grohl had already made a handful of passes across various parts of the stage by the song’s end. One of the show’s greatest highlights for the showmanship of the band came during “Stacked Actors,” a four minute song from 1999’s There Is Nothing Left To Lose, turned into a 20 minute epic, spurred from the guitar duel between Dave Grohl and tenured Foos guitarist Chris Shiflett. It was right out of the Rock Bible, a trading of fast and furious licks, each trying to outdo the other. “This Is a Call,” from the Foo Fighter’s debut album, received similar treatment when the song featured an excellent and furious drum solo from Taylor Hawkins, who had about five minutes of time for himself to whack the crap out of his drum. For us classic rock fans, we all got a great treat when they followed “This Is a Call,” with “In The Flesh?” (with Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals) from Pink Floyd’s seminal 1979 album, The Wall, with a fine demonstration of heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums. A more sensitive side of the band was shown when Grohl dedicated “These Days” to the families of soldiers for Veterans Day, it revealed the Foo Fighters as a band that really does care.
Though the main set did close with “All My Life,” from One By One, another high energy, classic anthem (the stuff set lists are made of) the best performance of the main set was “Arlandria,” from Wasting Light, which live, in part due to the accompanying dimming of the lights, gave a new found emotional depth and chilling presence to the song.
Even then, about 2 hours in, the Foos were not done. After leaving stage, Grohl suddenly reappeared via the screens from a backstage camera, at which point we (the audience) began negotiating the number of songs to be performed in the encore. After five minutes of back and forth with Grohl, with interjections from Hawkins, he returned to the stage himself, to the raised platform dead center of the Verizon Center. Grohl, again in Springsteen fashion, as he did throughout the show (later in the encore telling about his first heartbreak, who happened to be in the audience), told a great story about the changes he perceived in the area from when he had last lived in DC, 20 years ago. Grohl then launched into two stellar solo acoustic numbers, “Wheels,” a song representing, this night, the positives of change in life, and “Best of You,” an already beautiful song that was stripped to a new level of emotional truth by the performance. The full band rejoined Grohl halfway through “Times Like These,” following which, Grohl introduced a very special guest, Bob Mould (lead singer of “Hüsker Dü” who did backing vocals for “Dear Rosemary,” on Wasting Light. Mould carried out his role in “Rosemary,” and stuck around to play rhythm guitar on a cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Breakdown.”
During “Wheels,” if we sung the chorus loud enough, Grohl promised that the Foo Fighters would come back to play a 4 hour show at the 9:30 club, and so, after dues were given out for being a great audience, Grohl said, “We’ll see you at the 9:30 club,” as the band launched into “Everlong.” The show ended in true Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion; after the stellar performance of “Everlong,” the show ended by Grohl taking off his guitar and placing it on the ground, letting the feedback ring throughout the stadium as the crowds began to shuffle out.
– Jackson Sinnenberg, host of Sinn 6:66, a classic rock radio show, Fridays at 6-7pm on WGTB