Foo Fighters knew they were playing for a broader audience than usual at their Bud Light-sponsored Super Bowl week gig last night in midtown Manhattan, so, late in their set, Dave Grohl gave the crowd a lesson in Foo history. “Years ago, I was in this band and while I was in this band I wrote a bunch of songs and made a bunch of recordings in my basement. . . . [Then] I wasn’t in the band anymore, so I decided to do what I learned in Seattle – we started a band, bought a Dodge Van and played clubs. And that was 20 years ago.”
He began strumming 1995’s “Big Me,” delivering the endearing melody alone until the band joined in. The Foos then shifted into their more recent single “Walk,” with Taylor Hawkins pummeling explosive, dynamic rhythm as Grohl howled the arena-size choruses. The two songs proved just how far the Foos have come in the last 20 years, from opening for Mike Watt to selling out Madison Square Garden. “I wrote this song as a joke,” Grohl said before “Big Me.” “It’s not a joke anymore.”
As Grohl pointed out, the show was only the band’s third gig in the last year and a half. Set on a 1,500-capacity airplane hangar tent outside the old WWII aircraft carrier the Intrepid, it was a massive operation. Four thousand contest winners and corporate partners stayed onboard the ship; last night, concertgoers packed the multiple open bars while servers readily passed out hors d’oeuvres. (Openers the Zac Brown Band likely kept the barbecue for themselves backstage.)
It may have been an off-cycle gig for the Foos, but the minute they hit the stage with the thunderous “All My Life,” it was clear they weren’t holding back. Pat Smear grinned away, his guitar slung lower than ever while Taylor Hawkins created fireworks from his drum kit, looking like he just strolled in from the Santa Monica Pier. Grohl said being back onstage “makes me remember I have the greatest fucking job in the world.” Aside from perhaps Grohl’s buddy Paul McCartney, no one seems to approach the role of rock star with more palpable joy than Grohl. Toward the end of the night, he grabbed and sipped from someone’s Bud Light bottle and mugged with a thumbs up a la the “Big Me” video – a move few others could pull off. “As far as I’m concerned, this is fucking half-time right here,” Grohl said.
It really could have been, as Grohl ran, screamed and head banged throughout the tense, jagged grooves of “Rope” and “The Pretender.” One highlight was “Generator,” off the band’s most underrated album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose, whereGrohl rested his foot on the monitor, face down, concentrating on the winding riff. He seemed hypnotized by an extra-long “Monkey Wrench,” which broke down into a series of blues licks until he finally howled the song’s epic bridge.
At one point, “This is a Call” also turned into a funky roadhouse boogie –”That’s the Black Keys version,” Grohl joked – before the band broke into a steamrolling take on Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh.” Before he left, Grohl acknowledged that he knew some fans were hoping to hear songs from the band’s next album : “I wish I could play you our whole new record,” he said. “But I can’t. It’s a surprise.”