For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.
‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’
Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!
It was something quite wonderful to behold.
Photo by author
Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.
‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.
The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Brian Hall
Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.
After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.
When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.
I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).
As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.
Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time.
The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)
To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it.
Send in the congregation
Open your eyes, step in the light
A jukebox generation
Just as you were
And you need blind faith
No false hope
Do you have blind faith?
No false hope
Where is your blind faith?
No false hope
Open your eyes, open your eyes
Step into the light
Open your eyes, step into the light
I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there.
Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.
The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.
So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!
Setlist from setlist.fm
I’ll Stick Around
Learn to Fly
The Sky Is a Neighborhood
Something From Nothing
(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)
Let It Die
(First time live since 4/ 3/12)
All My Life
Times Like These
(Solo into full band)
Make It Right
I’m in Love With My Car
(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)
Skin and Bones
Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls
(Played during band intros)
Best of You
This Is a Call
La Dee Da
(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)
Concrete and Gold
Thank you for reading