“Usually at shows like this, we like to take advantage of our hot, sweaty audience and play shit that people don’t like,” Dave Grohl said as surveyed the mosh-pit carnage at the second of the band’s three intimate U.K. club shows. “But tonight, we’re going to take a little more air, play a couple more songs and do as much as we can before we get kicked out.”
And Grohl was true to his word, using last night’s show at the new, tiny House of Vans venue, located in old railway tunnels underneath London’s Waterloo Station, to showcase a career-spanning, hit-heavy, 21-song set list. At one point, after his request for people at their first Foo Fighters show to identify themselves was met with a surprisingly loud response, he joked, “We’ve only been playing for 20 fucking years!” But to anyone genuinely fresh to the Foos live experience, this was the perfect no-frills primer on what they’ve missed so far.
This meant that despite the relative imminence of the band’s eighth studio album, Sonic Highways (set for release on November 10th), there was no new material, bar a brief snippet of one song, hidden in the middle of “The Pretender.” Instead, in front of a 800-strong audience scarcely able to believe they’d gained access to such a small show, the band – performing under the pseudonym the Holy Shits – were relaxed and in the mood to jam on some old favorites.
First though, like a teacher dealing with unruly kids at the start of a new school year, Grohl went in hard: The opening seven-song salvo, including slamming versions of “White Limo,” “Arlandria,” “Generator” and “The Pretender,” was delivered with barely a pause for breath. “As you can see, we don’t like to take too many breaks between songs,” he grinned, eventually. “We don’t want to shortchange you.”
Tickets to the show were in fact free, but, whatever the price, it was hard to imagine anyone complaining about a set that included big singles such as “Learn to Fly,” “All My Life” and “My Hero,” as well as detours through the dustier backroads of the Foos’ catalog. Here we got a country-ish, accordion-enhanced saunter through In Your Honor-era B-side “Skin and Bones,” plus a rare outing for “Weenie Beenie” off 1995’s self-titled debut album, introduced as “something we haven’t done in a long, long time” and ending with Grohl exclaiming, “That was so Nineties!”
That was followed by a set-closer of similar vintage, “This Is a Call,” before the crowd’s amusing chants of “Holy Shits! Holy Shits!” prompted a return. A solo Grohl strummed his way through “Times Like These” before the full band joined in for “Best of You” and a final, deliriously-received, “Everlong.”
Before he left, Grohl promised that, on the Foos’ next visit, fans would get to hear songs from Sonic Highways. “But I’m pretty sure, when we come back, it’s not going to be in a place like this,” he sais. “It’s going to be fucking smaller!”
In fact, the Foo Fighters play one more intimate show, at London’s Islington Assembly Hall tonight, before reverting to stadium type at the closing concert of the Invictus Games, held on Sunday in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. But no matter the size or location of venue, this train-tracks gig showed once again that the Foo Fighters have the live show to match.
“New Way Home”
“Learn to Fly”
“Cold Day in the Sun”
“All My Life”
“Skin and Bones”
“Hey, Johnny Park!”
“For All the Cows”
“This Is a Call”
“Times Like These”
“Best of You”