It may have not been Dave Grohl’s preferred way to spend the Foo Fighters’ 25th anniversary year. He made no effort to conceal his frustration with his signature charming crankiness, yet the band managed to blow the roof off the famed Roxy, 25 years after playing it for the first time. Or at least it felt like they did, thanks to a gnarly mix and stage presence that managed to translate liveness through the live stream.
The stream took the viewer through what once was the normal drill of the concert-going experience…by way of a can of Coors Light, the show’s sponsor and recurring mascot. Following the “beer can cam” down Sunset, through the metal detector and into the Roxy, people see a flurry of tech crew, open road boxes and mixing consoles twilit in pre-show blue to the sound of intricate and hard-hitting instrumental post rock, laced with repetitive shots of idling amplifiers and the Roxy’s mirrorball. It comes strikingly close to capturing the sights of pre-show jitters and boredom, so uncanny people can practically smell the fog juice. At the 30 minute mark, the “house music” rests, and a heavy silence normally filled with whoops and cheers for interloping stage crew cleanses the sonic palette as the beer cam follows the band on stage, which is now a six piece plus a contingent of teenage backup singers that include Grohl’s own daughter Violet.
After some banter and confusion as to whether this was happening yet, the band barreled headfirst into “All My Life” from 2002’s One by One. Whether it is the Roxy’s intimate stage size, or simply good camera sense, the video production nailed the feeling and view of a live show. No weirdly tight framing that only makes these things feel like a filmed basement rehearsal, no novel performance location, no ad hoc video effects. This was just a solid performance with—other than the occasional shot of a Coors can tableau—a no-nonsense video feed to capture it. All that was missing was the crowd noise.
But Grohl managed to address that awkwardness and how tough the year has been, and in doing so brought what was, according to the chat box, a fairly global audience into a 500-person theater with him. Before playing the volumetrically dynamic “These Days,” he aptly summed up what these days have been like for him and the band: “The last eight months we haven’t done much. Six months went by where we didn’t see each other. That’s some fucked up shit.” And before “Best of You,” he addressed the global crowd: “I remember when everything closed down. Being face to face is the best part of what we do.” Unable to imagine not playing to a live crowd, he said he had shrugged off the possibility. But, he realized, “the most important thing is to bring joy and happiness. This is what we have to do to bring joy and happiness.”
And although the Foo Fighters often play massive sets, this one was a tight 12-song set, rich with their most catchy singles and singalongs spanning two and a half decades. The very sight of them playing early favorites like “Learn to Fly” and set-closer “Everlong” highlighted the amount of time the band has been active, especially when butted up against genre-hoppers like “The Pretender” and the spellbinding “Shame Shame” from forthcoming Midnight Medicine. Following this haunting and alluring earworm, in the most drastic reversal imaginable, they struck up 1995’s “My Hero.” Diving from the refreshingly alien territory of the new work to this was like flashing back to highschool after decades of hard learning and acceptance. Imagine one’s 16 or 17 year-old self singing along at a high school dance or in a beat-up Toyota and suddenly getting implanted with the memories of the next 25 years. It’s uncanny at best, but not unpleasant. The joy and happiness comes through, to be sure, through the celebration of simpler times. Tainted with the knowledge of the real only makes this easy joy all the more precious and important to protect.
Normally for the Foo Fighters it manifests in a cathartic crowd singalong. No such chance here, which Grohl recognized, but he urged catharsis nonetheless: “If you hate your fucking neighbors, and you hate your fucking roommates, I want you to sing “My Hero” by yourself to your fucking iPad. Someday we’ll be doing this face to face. It won’t be long.”
Let’s hope so.
All My Life
The Sky is a Neighborhood
Times Like These
Learn to Fly
This Is a Call
Make It Right
Best of You
Photo Credit: Boston Lynn Shulz