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Foo Fighters are unarguably the biggest non-heritage rock band on the planet right now, and with a down-to-earth everyman quality about them, great songs that marry enormous riffs and irrepressible hooks, and a willingness to give great value for money, it’s easy to see why. Starting the Australian leg of their 2018 Concrete & Gold tour in Perth, they brought along some friends to make sure a great night would be had by all.
It’s certainly not Melbourne trio Cosmic Kahuna’s fault that they were tapped to be the “local opener” in W.A., but it sure would’ve been better to see one of our own get the guernsey. Still, they hit the huge stage running and growling through a sludgy, clattering sound mix, making as good a play as they could in their quest to be the next Airbourne-like breakout rock act. Their set, plucked from debut album Paintstripper, was raucously heavy and relentlessly energetic.
Considering the amount of people boasting about being there for Weezer more than the headliners, the crowd was oddly subdued for much of their set. Given a huge disservice by a diabolically muddy mix which just never improved, the Los Angelino band’s obvious enjoyment, energy and sharp-suited dress sense (a snazzy white number for frontman Rivers Cuomo, ‘70s mission brown lounge suit for guitarist Brian Bell) onstage didn’t translate to the crowd until a late flurry of alt-hits allowed some light to break through.
Overlooking the sound, Cuomo and Co delivered a great, bouncy, indie rock sugarfix. Starting with ‘In The Garage’ and ‘Surf Wax America’, their set was student-stoner-hit-heavy as they progressed through ‘El Scorcho’, ‘Undone’, Pixies cover ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and ‘Hash Pipe’, before Cuomo donned a funky sombrero for white-rap rock romp Beverly Hills. New songs Happy Hour and Feels Like Summer (so appropriate on this warm and clear night) also impressed with their immediacy and joie de vivre, and the closing break of ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and the glorious ‘Island In The Sun’ were singalong faves.
“We’ve got some making up to do,” shouted man of the hour Dave Grohl as he and the ever-expanding Foo Fighters took the stage, all previous sound problems magically eradicated. He’s referring to his last visit in March 2015, where, the night before the final show of their tour, he flew home to take his kids to a daddy-daughter dance, then contracted food poisoning on the return flight, and struggled through the show with a nasty stomach bug. No such qualms affected this show, thankfully, with the band proving they know exactly what a rock crowd wants, and delivering it in spades.
“You don’t want one of those one hour rock n’ roll shows, do you? You don’t want one of those two hour rock n’ roll shows, do you? Ooh it’s going to be a long night!” Grohl teased, eventually playing for two and three quarter hours, mixing new tracks with oldies, a couple of covers, and some good natured jamming which never quite gets too self-indulgent.
All the favourites are here – ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘The Pretender’, the best-mates-jamming extended groove of Rope, an incandescent My Hero sung from a small sub-stage at the end of a very long runway through the throng after Grohl recounts the food poisoning story. Four new tracks including singles ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ fit neatly into the greatest hits set, their chunky riffs working superbly together with harmonies gloriously bolstered by new backing singers Barbara, Sam and Laura.
The stage featured a Pink Floyd-esque diamond-shaped screen high behind drummer Taylor Hawkins, which morphed into the album cover from time to time, and midway through the show lowered down to act as a low ceiling to the band. The small, sweaty club vibe this created gave them licence to rock even harder and grungier through ‘Let It Die’ and ‘White Limo’. It’s a neat trick that, along with the ingenious lighting and video effects, helped ensure the energy of the long performance never started wane.
Breakout – “so ‘90s,” laughs Grohl – featured the tweaked lyric “I don’t wanna look like Dad,” and it’s this refusal to take themselves seriously – like when the singer introduces his bandmates with easy affability and teases them into playing mini-solos and snippets of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, or makes fun of Hawkins’ brand new Japanese-themed drumkit as he takes the stool to allow the drummer to be frontman for Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ – that endear him to us so much.
The scathing ‘Monkey Wrench’ and a euphoric ‘Best Of You’ close out the main set, before Hawkins and Grohl reprise their comedy act from a couple of tours ago, via a video teaser hinting at how many more songs they’d do. Grohl takes the podium deep within the floor crowd for a solo acoustic run through his instrumental ‘Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners’ and a tender and intricate take on The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, then starting a great ‘Times Like These’ before the full band rejoins him.
‘This Is A Call’ makes an appearance from 22 years ago in all it’s indie poppy glory, before an ecstatic farewell of ‘Everlong’ that had the thousands in attendance singing is briefly interrupted by stage invader Jeven. Here’s where the essence of rock fan Dave Grohl is on display most openly: instead of letting security dish out rough justice, the singer defuses the difficult situation by hugging the interloper and giving him thirty seconds in the spotlight, before leading him into the now passive bouncers care.
“Wow – he almost got his arse kicked just then!” he sighs, concerned and relieved at being able to help. “I just saved his fucking life, right there!”
Every Foo Fighters show is more than a concert – it’s an experience, a story about to unfold, and everyone has their own Foos moment they hold dear. Jeven got a hug and a reprieve from (at best) manhandling: the rest of the crowd got a magnificent show, a lot of laughs, and hoarse throats from singing along to their favourites all night long.
Photo: Stuart Millen