On Thursday, October 13 at approximately 9 p.m., the Foo Fighters took to the stage at the Forum in Los Angeles. Two hours and forty-five minutes later I had a much clearer view on what live music is supposed to be.
Now I have been a Foos fan for quite some time, and I saw them in concert twice before Thursday night. Once on the In Your Honor tour and again after the release of Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Both of those times they put on a great show and left me wanting more. Dave Grohl is easily one of the most entertaining rock artists to watch in person these days and he always keeps the audience hot, both during and in between songs. Taylor Hawkins is also a thrill to see perform in person. From the start of the set the first time I saw the band live, Hawkins has commanded my attention and never failed to impress.
To anyone who follows the band, the above statements are not exactly breaking news. I was very excited going into Thursday night’s show, but because I had seen them a couple times already, I thought I knew what was in store for me. Instead, I saw a band that I never considered to be a best-of-all-time contender deliver the what was probably the single greatest performance I have witnessed first hand.
If it seems like I’m gushing over the concert, I am. I actually made it a point to wait a few days to write this just to make sure I got past the initial euphoria after the show ended. Even after taking a while to think about it, I still believe it was the best show I’ve seen. I can even confidently say it was better than some of the great acts I’ve seen live (like AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The White Stripes), even the bands I consider to be my all time favorites.
The set was great for several reasons, and it can’t be explained just by going over the setlist (although it is below). When Foo Fighters came on stage, they started playing “Bridge Burning” from this year’s album Wasting Light, which has a great beginning (Dave Grohl screaming “these are my famous last words”) that makes it a perfect opening song for an album or a live show. They played three more songs (“Rope” off the new album, followed by “The Pretender” and “My Hero”) before taking a break, and the reaction from the crowd was deafening. Seriously, I’ve never heard a crowd go that crazy after the first couple of songs in a concert, it was almost as loud as the audience’s plea for an encore.
From then on the band played a fantastic mix of new songs and old hits, with Grohl being his usual funny self on the mic in between each one. They also played several little jams in the middle of songs that showed off Hawkins’ talent on the drums as well as the abilities of both Grohl and Chris Shiflett on the guitar. The most memorable of these moments was probably during “Stacked Actors” when Grohl left the stage and ran down an aisle that split the general admission crowd to a small platform at the other end of the arena as he and Shiflett played dueling guitar solos. They followed that up by playing “Walk” and then turned off all of the lights on the stage. They started playing “Monkey Wrench” while the arena was still dark, which created a really cool effect, and brought the lights back on during the song. At one point during this song, Dave slipped and fell while running around the stage. They finished up the first part of their set playing songs like “These Days”, which Grohl said is his favorite song that he has ever written, along with my favorite version of “Skin and Bones” that I have heard. Then came “This is a Call” off the band’s first album and finally “All My Life” (a great last-song-before-the-encore).
The Foos left the stage and all of the lights were shut off as the crowd screamed continuously for more songs. Then on the video screens above the stage, there was a close-up night vision shot (with no sound) of Dave Grohl from what seemed to be a handheld camera. The crowd went crazy. He held up one finger, asking if the audience wanted to hear another song. Then two fingers, then three, then four and finally five. I think you can guess how the fans reacted each time. Dave seemed set on playing five more songs and then Taylor Hawkins peeked over his shoulder and held up singers fingers as the crowd went nuts. Dave then looked into the camera angrily and started pointing at the fans and yelling “no”, scolding us for asking for that many more songs. It was a really unique and pretty hilarious bit, and it was typical Foo Fighters.
The camera then panned to the other members of the band and then all of the sudden the lights in the arena came back on and Grohl was standing on the small raised platform at the opposite end from the stage with an acoustic guitar. He played “Long Road to Ruin” and “Best of You” completely solo (with the exception of help from the audience). It was amazing. It takes something very special to make a concert in front of nearly 18,000 screaming fans feel intimate, but that is exactly what he pulled off. This version of “Best of You” may very well be the single most impressive thing I have seen at a live show. And it was not as much because of how musically gifted he is, but instead because in a packed arena it felt as though he was just playing in my living room in front of a handful of people.
After that, he played the first part of “Times Like These” by himself, but midway through the rest of the band joined in and Dave ran back to the stage. He again fell down as he went up the stairs onto the stage, joked about it after the song was over and the crowd ate it up. One of the other highlights from the encore was in the middle of “Dear Rosemary.” They started jamming again and turned it into a cover of “Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It sounded great and the fans were into every second of it.
If I haven’t done a good enough job getting this point across yet, let me just say it straight: what makes the Foo Fighters so great in concert is the ability to make a connection with the fans. And by all accounts, they continue to get better as the years go by. I personally believe this is essential for any great performer, be it a musician, an actor, or an athlete. When you see them in person, Dave Grohl makes you feel like one of his close friends, that you could see him on the street after the show and have a conversation as if you have known each other for years. You can plainly see that he and the rest of the band are having so much fun that it is impossible for that to not rub off on you. One thing that Grohl said on Thursday pretty much sums this up for me. He said simply, “ladies and gentlemen…well that was fucking fun.”
- Bridge Burning
- The Pretender
- My Hero
- Learn to Fly
- White Limo
- Cold Day in the Sun
- Stacked Actors
- Monkey Wrench
- Let it Die
- These Days
- Skin and Bones
- This is a Call
- In the Flesh? (Pink Floyd)
- All My Life
- Long Road to Ruin (acoustic)
- Best of You (acoustic)
- Times Like These
- Miss the Misery
- Dear Rosemary
- Breakdown (by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)