Remember when this guy used to be in Nirvana? Neither does he. Photos by Laurie Scavo.
Let’s see… longhaired front man, check. Gratuitous guitar solos, check. Pandering to the crowd, check. Extended instrumental jams, check. A couple acoustic numbers, check. Four minute drum extravaganza, check. Playing a little too long, check. Playing guitar in the crowd, check. Looks like we have an arena rock band kids, and that is exactly what the Foo Fighters have become. Their recent show at Red Rocks proved to be a laundry list of rock clichés pulled off with brilliant abandon.
However unoriginal the set was, it is hard to blame a band that has risen from an under-touted side project to the No. 1 party band in the world. If for no other reason, they clearly have a blast doing their thing.
The Fighters where originally supposed to play July 14th, but due to lead singer Dave Grohl’s throat problems, the show was played last Monday. The chilly night did not keep people away.
The crowd was filled with enthusiastic fans that sang the words, pounded their fists, lit their lighters at the appropriate times and seemed utterly indifferent to the irony that Grohl used to drum for Nirvana, a band that was the antithesis of everything the Foo Fighters have become.
Starting off the night, Year Long Disaster played a short, to-the-point set. No frills, no posturing, straight rock ‘n’ roll that freaks out just enough to leave you interested in the mainly repetitive, loud, blues-based noise. Front man Daniel Davies (the son of the Kinks’ Ray Davies) and crew took time off their tour with Motörhead to play the make up dates they where originally scheduled for. The band is prototypical L.A rock, shameless in their embrace of past styles, but striking in their delivery. This amalgamation of old tone and new enthusiasm kept the crowd into the show just long enough for the band the to get off the stage.
Next the Foo Fighters took the stage, which was adorned with little pomp other than some back lighting and small video screens. From the first song, the recent hit “The Pretender,” Grohl and company played like they where having the time of their lives. Despite the prevalence of redundant songs like “Long Road to Ruin” and “Cheer up Boys,” off of “Silence, Patience & Grace,” the band’s newest and best received album, the set was peppered with slightly older hits like “Times Like These” “All My Life” “Learn to Fly” and Monkey Wrench.”
The sound was far from great. The vocals were often growled out rather than sung, and the dueling guitar solos painfully pointed out Grolh’s inferiority to lead guitarist Chris Shiflett. The crowd did not seem to mind as long as they got to belt out the chorus’ and the copious dramatic pauses seemed pure elation to the waiting fans.
When not playing songs off the last four albums the crowd seemed a bit lost, but the pure enthusiasm of the band created a coherent party vibe throughout the set. In between songs instrumental pieces floated around, and Taylor Hawkins (arguably the best straight rock drummer currently playing) took an extended solo while the rest of the band got a break, and did what I thought was impossible: making the roto-toms somehow rock.
It is hard not to appreciate the pure persistence of a band that has as many radio hits as the Foo Fighters in their 14 year span. It’s like listening to CCR’s “Chronicles” album — you keep saying to yourself, “Oh yeah, they wrote that song, too.” The show was a long way from the 1995 self-titled album where Greg Dulli from the Afghan Wigs plays a guitar part.
However, the band clearly still has fun playing, and they put on a show that reflects their enthusiasm for live music. While I’ll take my Grohl throwing drums at Kurt Cobain’s head, the Foo Fighters still do it for those that like their rock safer, and on a big stage.
Reverb contributor Aaron Collins is a Denver-based writer.
Regular Reverb photographer Laurie Scavo is a Denver-based photographer.