Live review: Foo Fighters, London Stadium

Dave Grohl and the boys bring tunes and emotions on an epic scale as Foo Fighters rock London…

Live review: Foo Fighters, London Stadium
James Hickie
Andi Taylor

“I’m gonna kick your ass tonight, ladies and gentleman,” Dave Grohl assures London Stadium, as opener All My Life heralds the true arrival of summer.

While dodgy weather saw the recent festivities at Donington re-dubbed ‘Drownload’, and with the England football team getting off to an inauspicious start in the Euros, the sound of that chugging guitar is synonymous with sunshine, cloudless blue skies, beers and an audience with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

And while this gig is on just the other side of intimacy, it’s full of all the hallmarks of the Foo Fighters experience we’ve come to expect over the course of their 30-year career, many of which make this space feel as enormous or up-close and personal as the mood requires.

So, we get an epic running time of “three-fucking-hours” and throat-shredding histrionics. We get the protracted versions of songs, including a heavily jammed out No Son Of Mine in all its raucous glory. We get the wall-to-wall classics, such as the welcome There Is Nothing Left To Lose triple-header of Generator, Stacked Actors and Breakout. We get the playful snippets of cover versions, including Beastie Boys, The Ramones, Devo and Nine Inch Nails festooning Dave’s introductions to his bandmates. (Admittedly, the last two reference points are for Josh Freese, the prolific sticksman who played in both bands, countless others, and brings precision and understated effervescence to a role no-one ever wanted to be vacant). And the quieter moments with just the Foos’ leader and an acoustic guitar, gently strumming the likes of Under You, bringing a reverential hush.

Much is the same, then, but so much has changed, too – and it’s in the latter half of the set that those painful losses are addressed. The death of Taylor Hawkins is never far from the mind of anyone on or offstage, because the expansive atmosphere naturally evokes memories of the man who embodied big show energy. Hearing Dave introduce Aurora as “Taylor Hawkins’ favourite Foo Fighters song” therefore brings a lump to the throat. But that sadness turns to joy later with the appearance of the late drummer’s son, Shane, switching places with Josh behind the kit for a thunderous I’ll Stick Around. “Jesus, I feel like I just took a ride in a Ferrari for three-and-a-half minutes,” Dave exclaims, clearly as blown away by the powerhouse performance as the rest of us.

Unsurprisingly, two songs from 5/5-rated 11th album, But Here We Are, that address the loss of Dave’s mother, Virginia, are among the evening’s most affecting moments.

You may recall in the 2011 documentary Skin And Bones there’s a moment when Dave is recording These Days, itself a song about the spectre of death written in tribute to the fans who lost their lives at Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival. As Dave focuses, he’s approached by his young daughter, Violet, who whispers a reminder of his promise to take her swimming that day. Looking back, it’s a reminder to us all that life is a shuffled deck of moments, happy and sad.

Thirteen years on, witnessing 18-year-old Violet joining Dave onstage for Show Me How, about the passing of the torch when time’s tide takes those we care about away from us carries a weight of significance that even this stadium struggles to house. As the voices of father and daughter mesh perfectly over a new wave guitar sound that recalls I’m In Love With A German Film Star by The Passions, you’re struck by the stillness as 62,000 people realise that moments like this are exactly that – moments – and to be cherished. Show Me How clearly wasn’t written with venues this size in mind – it’s far too personal for that – but it’s proof that raw relatability is as powerful an agent as rock, even if it doesn’t elicit the same kinetic response.

Later, during the encore, The Teacher devastates in an entirely different way – a gut punch, sonically and emotionally, featuring the lyric ‘You showed me how to grieve, but never showed me how to say goodbye’.

It wasn’t so long ago we had to face the potential prospect of bidding farewell to Foo Fighters, after an overwhelming tragedy struck their ranks. Thankfully, we didn’t have to. And when, an hour after they’ve left the stage to an explosive firework display and the fans slowly filing back to Stratford Station are still singing the ‘whoa’ refrain from Best Of You, you’re reminded how important it is that they’re still here. For them. For us. For music. What a night!

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