Long-time Foo Fighters fans and first-timers alike packed in to DTE to rock one last time this summer, and the band did not disappoint. Dave Grohl and company, celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band this summer, performed in Michigan for the first time in four years to an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd in Clarkston’s famous amphitheater on Monday night. In spite of the unseasonably cool weather and a brief bout of light rain, the audience remained energized and invested throughout the band’s 2.5 hour show and a blistering opening set from UK rockers, Royal Blood. What most concertgoers did not expect, however, was that a third of the night would be filled with legendary classic rock covers and jams for seemingly no reason other than the sheer fun of it.
As the concert sold out eight months in advance, it was no surprise fans were on time and ready to rock when Royal Blood took the stage at about 7pm. The two piece group performed with an energy and volume that well-suited their blend of modern hard rock and classic metal riffs and fills, and the band garnered a respectful support and attention from the massive assembly of the Foo faithful throughout their 50-minute opening set which featured the recent radio hit, “Little Monster,” and a slice of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” during their closing number. The call backs to classic tracks were only just beginning.
After a 40-minute set change and a bit of rain, the giant FF curtain dropped, and the lights went out to the roars and applause of the audience and the opening notes of “Everlong,” normally a closing song for the band in years past. Grohl had the crowd singing along within moments, and the band did not look back for the rest of the night. Hit after hit, including “Monkey Wrench,” “Learn to Fly,” “The Pretender,” “Big Me,” and “Walk,” all performed in the first hour, allowed the band to flaunt their many successes while also celebrating their two full decades together as an active group, going all the way back to 1995’s self-titled debut LP and tour. Grohl continues to perform from atop an elaborately-decorated rock throne he designed himself with the help of the band’s lighting director due to a still-healing broken leg that was sustained earlier this summer during the European leg of the tour. For a performer who is generally known to be very animated and energetic throughout the concert, it was amazing to see Grohl continuing to flail his head and three good limbs while seated from the first to the last notes of the night, though he was able to walk to the front of the stage with the aid of crutches for a final bow.
The rest of the band were spot-on, as usual. Guitarists, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, traded off leads and solos with Grohl from song to song, and each band member had an opportunity to jam on a few bars of various classic rock hits during the lengthy band introduction portion of the show which came just before the half-way point of the set. The crowd was delighted to hear bits of songs by Van Halen, The Doors, Bad Brains, Queen, Alice Cooper, and The Stooges while bassist, Nate Mendel, and keyboardist, Rami Jaffee, were introduced. After a particularly strong crowd response to a snippet of Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City,” Grohl elected to start the song again and play it all the way through, though the band’s cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” had the best sound and groove of all the jams during this portion of the show.
By time the band introductions concluded, with a spotlight on drummer, Taylor Hawkins, who performed his signature original tune, “Cold Day in the Sun” after a brief call-back to Freddie Mercury’s Live Aid vocal volley with the audience, Grohl commented the band could just as easily continue to play classic rock covers as they could play their own material, and he solicited vote-by-applause polls at random between songs for the rest of the night, sometimes continuing with original songs, and sometimes more random covers. It was as if nearly half the concert had become a typical evening of tuning in to classic rock radio rather than focusing on the wealth of material the Foo Fighters have recorded over the past 20 years.
Keeping the audience on their toes with surprises and pleasant randomness is nothing new for this group. Excusing the revolving-door style membership during the band’s early days, they have continued to challenge themselves and their audience with an evolving sound that covers acoustic balladry all the way over to speed metal with conviction and precision. Last year’s massive Sonic Highways documentary and album project alone could be a full career for some projects, but it is just one album era for the Foo Fighters. To continue to surprise even fans who had seen them perform several times before by including the extra jams and covers only adds to this legacy.
After rousing renditions of “My Hero” and “Breakout,” along with a fuzzy, psychedelic detour on “Outside,” Grohl invited a fan from the front row on stage who had been distracting him with a poster asking for the singer to have a drink to celebrate the fan’s 50th birthday. Not only did a crew member bring a beer out for Grohl and the fan to chug to the cheers of the crowd, he called another set list audible and dedicated a spirited and nearly-note perfect cover of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” with Grohl taking Bowie’s vocal parts and Hawkins taking Freddie Mercury’s while continuing to drum, in honor of everyone‘s birthday, regardless of when that might be for each person.
Then: more hits. “All My Life,” “Times Like These,” and even “This is a Call,” the first song from the band’s first album, all rocked hard and had the crowd singing and dancing along. Still more covers appeared even in the latest stages of the concert with Hawkins singing lead again for an excellent cover of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and Grohl’s smooth lead guitar and vocal guiding the band through an excellent take on Tom Petty’s “Breakdown.”
The night finally ended with an extended and emotional “Best of You,” during which the audience initiated and repeated the vocal melody from the bridge of the song throughout a breakdown and build up that featured a bit more from each guitarist. As the band members took a final bow together at center stage, there is no way those in attendance could feel anything but satisfied. While the theme of the night was certainly classic rock, it’s noteworthy that a group like the Foo Fighters, who continue to succeed by releasing consistently-solid material for two decades and counting have become the classic rock of their own generation, earning their rightful place next to the greats and legends they shared with the audience alongside their own material all night.
Royal Blood set list
Caught in the Middle
Come on Over
You Can Be So Cruel
Figure It Out
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Out of the Black/Iron Man (Black Sabbath)
Foo Fighters set list
Learn to Fly
Something from Nothing
*Band Intros+Jams: I’m the One (Van Halen)/When the Music’s Over (The Doors)/How Low Can a Punk Get? (Bad Brains)/We Will Rock You (Queen)/I’m Eighteen (Alice Cooper)/School’s Out (Alice Cooper)/I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges)/Search & Destroy (The Stooges)/Detroit Rock City (Kiss)
Detroit Rock City (Kiss) (full song)
*Band Intros Cont.: Taylor’s Freddie Mercury vocal volley
Cold Day in the Sun
Under Pressure (Queen & David Bowie)
All My Life
Times Like These
Breakdown (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (Van Halen)
This is a Call
Best of You
(outro music-“Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen)