Photos and review: Foo Fighters at the Pepsi Center in Denver - Reverb

Live review: Foo Fighters @ the Pepsi Center

Dave Grohl was in energetic, enthusiastic form as his band Foo Fighters headlined the Pepsi Center on Sunday night. As Grohl skipped acrosss the stage to acknowledge those with the lackluster side-stage seats and later sprinted the length of the long catwalk that lead to a secondary stage near the soundboard, he grinned like a drugged hyena and headbanged like a possessed Muppet.

Grohl is a true rock ’n’ roll treasure, and even if his band has evolved into a mostly bland monolith of modern rock, he’s still one of the coolest figures in music.

Grohl is more than what he’s perhaps best known for – as Nirvana’s drummer. He’s a star in his own right, fronting his own band, writing his own FM staples, but he’s also one of the industry’s most avid and well-known fans of quality music. When he finds a new favorite band, he wears their T-shirts and talks about them in Rolling Stone and occasionally drums for them.

And there are few better forms of music marketing in 2011.

If only the Foo Fighters were as vibrant and important. As the band proved again on Sunday night, they’re heroes of modern arena rock – pumping out the same FM-friendly jams that made them all rich but also tarnished the legacy of their first two records.

The band opened its Sunday set in very timely fashion with “Bridge Burning” and “Rope” – the same songs that open the band’s latest album, “Wasting Light,” which came out in April. Fans of the record likely appreciated the tribute, but it wasn’t the most inspired opening. Things didn’t really get kicking until the third song of the night, the 2007 jam “The Pretender,” their best song since 1997’s “The Colour and the Shape.”

“Colour” was the band’s true breakthrough album, a sophomore release that built upon the band’s initial hits (“This is a Call,” “Big Me”) and grew its sound into a more focused brand of modern rock that was created for prime time. And the Foos played plenty of tribute to “Colour,” including an early-set “My Hero” that grew into one of the biggest, most participatory sing-alongs I’ve ever witnessed and a rejuvenated “Monkey Wrench” that was proof of the band’s more modest, down-to-Earth beginnings.

The Foos’ biggest hits represent much of what makes them uninteresting. “Learn to Fly” lacks any and all rock bite. “Times Like These” is empty nostalgia. And “My Hero” is paint-by-numbers rock music hand-crafted for the same masses who don’t admit to missing Bush’s “Everything Zen.”

The band almost makes up for it with the early genius of the understated “Everlong” and the feverish “Breakout,” but it’s not enough. You want Grohl’s originality to help define the band, but right now that’s just not the case.

And maybe that’s part of the problem. It’s so easy to appreciate Grohl’s spirit that you might want to expect more out of the Foo Fighters. Early on in the show, after a gutsy blast of loud-and-friendly rock, Grohl asked the crowd: “Do you guys have to work tomorrow?” The audience responded with an oddly enthusiastic, “Yeah!” Grohl responded the only way he knows how: “Well, that sucks!”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.

  • Deesa

    Geeh, what planet are you from?  The show was amazing.  The songs are an amazing blast of rock with energy and melody.  Far superior to most of the drivel out there today. 

    • Noah Davis

      What a shame that you totally missed the point. Grohl is the pure joy of rock and roll personified, and the band amplifies that perfectly. You seem to wish he was fronting for Wilco or something. Rock in it’s simple, loud, hooky, good time form still has a huge place, and the Foos do it better than anybody. That show was amazing to everyone but you.

  • Beowulf1955

    Try, for once, just to enjoy different styles of rock n’ roll for what they are. Great show, immense energy from Dave Grohl. Go slap on your “Best of the Carpenters” album…..

  • Rebecca

    Bland Monolith of rock and roll??!!  Are you friggin deaf or just stupid?  That concert was awesome and the Foo Fighters gave Denver residents an awesome show.  I’ll just chalk this writers comments up to old age and senility.  

    Hey Pops, isn’t it past your bedtime?

    • Kelsey Taybird Avery

      Rebecca, you are absolutely on point. One of the greatest nights and concerts I’ve ever been to. I could only imagine what the floor seats were like. 7 rows up we were still having a blast.

  • Mawg

    Lame review, sorry you had to go such a lame show reviewer. Gosh, go sit it your basement alone and listen to your Smith records. Leave the rocking to the professionals.

  • Jpeterson

    Who’s Ricardo Baca?

    • Jpeterson

      What? I can’t hear you because my ears are still burning from the best rock show ever last night!

  • Amanda Keller

    I was the lady who Dave wished a happy birthday (and blew a kiss to!) right before Everlong. If anyone has video of that, I would be forever grateful if you can share it with me. I’m still not sure it actually happened :)

  • Amanda Keller

    I was the lady who Dave wished a happy birthday (and blew a kiss to!) right before Everlong. If anyone has video of that, I would be forever grateful if you can share it with me. I’m still not sure it actually happened :)

    • Matt Nasi

      I have some awesome shots from last night. One kiss blower that might be yours. CHeck it:

    • Leanne

      WOW Amanda! That is so awesome! How did Dave know it was your birthday??

      • Amanda Keller

        I had a big sign that said “Hey Dave it’s my birthday!!” LOL

    • Velouria

      It happened! I was stoked FOR you!  Hard to top that birthday present!

      • Amanda Keller

        I honestly don’t know what show this reviewer watched because 48 hours later I’m still on a Foo high. I know how hard it can be to write review after review (I was a restaurant reviewer in a moderate-sized city for 5 years), but come on, dude. They rocked my socks off. And I think I speak for everyone in the Pepsi Center that night.

    • Bretrick

      Hahahaha….it happened!  I was right in front of you!  That was awesome!  You had the biggest smile on your face and he did too!  Happy Birthday!

  • js

    What show were you watching?  The show rocked!

  • KBus

    Obviously, this reviewer is a Coldplay fan. Gimme a break, the Foo Fighters are the tightest and most energetic band going. They harken back to the days of classic rock, where the anticipation of seeing the act is met by the actuality that they can play; and play good !!!

  • Shannon Berry

    Evidently we were not at the same show.  Foo Fighter rocked!!!  Your review…not so much!!  Lame!

  • Rick Doll

    Wow, first and last time I read this bush-leaguer’s column. I agree with almost every post here. This review turns to crap right at the point where Ricardo calls the show “bland and monolith.” Ricardo, Donde estabas anoche?

    I’m a Clevelander at heart, where it doesn’t take much to rile up a crowd – and this is just an observation, but let’s face it – it suffices to say that it takes a little bit more to get the Coloradans out of their seats. Since moving here, I’ve been to a number of events – sporting and musical – and outside of booing Kyle Orton, last night’s concert was the most engaged I’ve seen anyone at any event. For close to 2.5 hours, not a person took to their seat (well, minus Ricardo, obviously) and personally, I didn’t want to leave the auditorium, even to use the restroom, in fear I’d miss something… like a partial Floyd, Zepplin, or Petty cover.

    Ricardo, I think you should stick to what your best at, and by the looks of it, that means covering more Taylor Swift concerts…

  • Kelsey Taybird Avery

    If this didn’t ruin your career as a concert reviewer I don’t know what would.  Shove it up where the sun don’t shine Baca. It is October, maybe you could be assigned to reviewing the Pumpkin Patches and dog costumes at Wash Park. That’s probably much closer to your pace.

  • Phil H

    Agreed, terrible review. If there was any flaw to be found, it was cage the elephant’s opening “set” (if you can call it that). The singer sounded terrible, very screamy. Even their big hit (no rest for the wicked) he managed to screw up, missing lines. It’s clear they’re a studio band, they have no business performing live.

    • Chris

      At the end of their set, when the lead singer was jumping around like an idiot he started jumping up on the backup guitarist who was hunched over the same time – I think that guy was MAD, he threw down his guitar and stormed off, and not in a “The Who smash all the instruments” kind of way…  After that, it was kind of like… “shows over, nothing to see here” for everyone else..

  • Matt Stephenson

    Richardo “Big Brain” Baca don’t you think you are being a little hard on the Foo Fighters for being successful.  I mean even when they were “cool”  touring for “The Colour and the Shape” you could tell they were destined to be an arena rock band.  They write good songs and are loved by millions, in this instant I think they deserve their fame and still keep the “cool” element.  Besides there is plenty of deep cuts on their albums after the “Colour and the Shape”.

  • Wisconsin Foo Lover

    Maybe Dave really said “Ricardo sucks!” not “well that sucks!” ha ha ha

  • Velouria

    The Foo Fighters rocked the house! And Dave Grohl completely connects and engages with his audience. It was amazing energy. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Went home with a bad case of the FOO!

  • Xed

    On balance, I enjoyed the show, but it had its ups & downs.

    The downs: 

    * I found the sound muddy and too loud.  The volume was almost punishing (and I usually like it super loud)

    * I understand the badge of honor thing about playing a long time and giving fans their money’s worth, but 2 hours 45 doesn’t work for a band with as little dynamic variety as FF.  The middle section dragged, and there was too much “arena rock” padding — solo tradeoffs, crowd rallying banter, etc.

    The ups:

    * These guys are fabulous musicians and they play with tremendous energy
    * Grohl is an awesome and engaged front man — he works an arena like few can.
    * The crowd was very, very hot – it was LOUD in there during the encore break.  And the night-vision video schtick before the encore was funny and original.
    * They play honest, non-ironic balls-out rock and roll and, as such, are probably one the few bands like that who can still fill an arena.  Kudos to them for keeping the flame alive.
    * As a bonus, Mariachi El Bronx was really, really cool and Cage the Elephant gave a good accounting in their first ever arena performance.

    A 2 hour show with a clean mix would have been truly awesome to behold but, overall, I can’t complain.  The ticket price was truly fair, the band worked their asses off and Grohl is worth the price of admission all by himself.

    • Mel

      I had an amazing time; 2nd time seeing the Foo, this time with my 14-yr-old son who wasn’t born the first time around. The experience itself was all-encompassing, but I do have the same critiques as Xed, exactly.

      We had close seats but almost as far stage left as you could go and there were times I could not hear Dave at all. Horrible “dead echo” (I don’t know what the technical sound term for it), none of the subtlety of the actual music.

      The energy did sag; 2.75 hours may be too long for even the most tattooed Foo-lover’s completely undivided attention. I felt that to get the crowd’s emotion up after that lull was a little disingenuous, a little pushed.

      But, Monkey Wrench was magical—I forgot where I was for minutes—and in the end, an experience I will measure my life by, as in: That was the year we saw Foo in Denver.

      Although I don’t agree with the blogger, the photos were f-awesome. Thanks for those!

  • BroncoBettie82

    I don’t know if this reviewer was at the same show as the rest of us, the Foo Fighters were AMAZING!!!  This is the second time my husband and I have seen them and they haven’t disappointed us yet. I’m a big Cage The Elephant fan too, but I was bummed out by there show. I saw them last summer and they sounded amazing, last night they sounded thin and way too bright. My husband hadn’t seen them before and after all my raving about them to him I think I might have raised the bar too high, after a few songs he got up to get beer instead (LOL!) I disagree with XeD though, the Foo Fighters sounded great!  

    • Xed

      I agree that the sound for Cage the Elephant wasn’t good.  That’s pretty typical for opening bands — the sound is set up for the headliner.  Also, the singer’s voice is at such a high register that it’s hard not to sound thin and brittle at high volume. I think they’re a band to watch, and you have to remember that this was literally the first time they’ve played a large venue like this.

      As for the Foo Fighters’ sound – I guess it depends on where you where.  I was at the bottom of the bowl right behind the sound board.  You’d expect perfect sound there, but I often struggled to hear Grohl because the snare (of all things) was so high in the mix.  It did improve dramatically toward the end, and the sound for the encore was quite good.

      • dm1032

        The problem is that Ricardo Baca is out of touch and has no idea what talent is.  I think that he writes things just to get a reaction.  He is totally clueless, and he never defends his way off the mark comments.  I think that his days as a reviewer should be over.  The sad thing is that his ticket was probably free.  What a waste!  This had to be one of the best shows that I have ever seen.  The Foo Fighters are one of the best rock n’ roll bands of our generation.

  • gratefulmama

    It’s obvious that Ricardo Baca can’t remember what it is like to see a show for the first time.  That’s when one should stop reviewing concerts, like I did years ago.  I, at 46 years old have seem literally 100s.  I took my 14 year old son to his first rocknroll concert, “The Foo Fighters” Sunday night.  We went spontaneously and purchased tix just before the show.  I went expecting to have to fake it since concerts have begun to loose their luster in these past couple of years and I have grown quite selective about the artists that I want to see. I didn’t even know much Foo Fighters. let alone Mariach de Bronx or Cage The Elephant. But it was a band that my son really liked…and they stemmed from Narvana…it’s was worth a try.
    Fuckin’ A it was.  The enthusiasm, the energy, the care, personality and honesty from this band was both genuine and understood across generations.  They sounded good, were personable, in fact,  kind to their audience, with a wit and graciousness I haven’t seen for a long time from many of the older artists that I see perform.  Dave nailed it.  He reminded me of my inner critic and my voice and my relationship with my son.  He fuckin’ rocked.  Give it up Ricardo…you need to put down the pen until yo remember what it was like to be 14.  Quit relying on what you think you know cuz you don’t know shit.

  • Sean Kennedy

    I didn’t see the show; I am a little concerned about the hostile commentary directed toward the reviewer throughout a lot of these comments. I am all for a spirited debate. Voice your opinions, voice your dissention. The personal comments toward the reviewer are misplaced, unnecessary; full of ignorance, bitterness, and bigotry. “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

  • Sean Kennedy

    I didn’t see the show; I am a little concerned about the hostile commentary directed toward the reviewer throughout the majority of these comments. I am all for a spirited debate. Voice your opinions, voice your dissention. The personal comments toward the reviewer are misplaced, unnecessary, and full of ignorance, bitterness, and bigotry. I imagine Dave Grohl and the other band members in the Foo Fighters would be appalled knowing all of you are their core fan base. “We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

  • Tom

    The “bland monolith of modern rock” assessment is well supported by the song, “It’s Times Like These”.  That song is a turge (part turkey, part dirge).

    • noda

      I actually love that song.  Check out Glen Campbell’s Rick Rubin-produced cover of it.  It’ll change your mind.

  • Xed

    I’m not here to defend Baca –  I rarely agree with his opinions (and I don’t here, once again).  But I’ve never found it especially productive to attack a reviewer because he disagrees with you.  He’s got a right to his take, you’ve got a right to yours. 

    Anyway, it reminds me of, when I was a kid, the critical blasting bands like Grand Funk, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin got from from reviewers (it’s true, kids.  Zep was *hated* by most of the top critics of the time).  Unabashed, balls out rock played at an arena level rarely gets much critical love because of its mass appeal and perceived non-intellectual bent.

    But just as Jimmy page didn’t lose any sleep from getting slagged once in a while, I doubt Dave Grohl is buried in a  corner weeping over this review. He knows the deal:  if you had a great time on Sunday night, that’s the only review that really matters.

  • Peggy Strauss

    This concert was and is the most AMAZING concert I have ever seen!! Dave Grohl is a LEGEND not only is he an AMAZING guitarist,song writer and singer he is HOT!!!!!!!!!!

  • lolaro

    Hummmmmm, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt here….  Were you at the Fillmore instead of the Pepsi Center?  Or hey… did you accidently leave your iPod headphones on?  Just wouldn’t be right to compare you to a drugged hyena (cowardly vicious scavenger)… or is it?  hahaha!Seriously…  almost 3 straight hours of pure rock, old an new — unbelievable!  This show was nirvana to everyone I have spoken to.  Even those who didn’t walk in fanatics… left as one.  Amazing show! Ricardo…  you missed the mark this time.  Do over?

  • time to kick out the hams!

    sometimes it’s tough to see bands we enjoy turn into mainstream radio friendly bands.  like the foo fighters…like KOL….seeing them early on at places like the fox theater or ogden leave some of us with the memories we like to hold on to.  i am glad they are selling out stadiums, but they have turned into something that i don’t care for.   I’d say he is just poking a little fun at the foo’s as they have turned into predictable cock rockers.  the melodies sound regurgitated, the  changes are used and uninspiring.  The edge and desperation that was in the first two albums is gone.  they are better musicians after all these years, but there is more to it then just being able to play for almost 3 hours isn’t there?  If you listen to 93.3 daily and only go see bands when they are big enough to play the fillmore of pepsi center, then you have no idea what i am talking about.  there is a huge market for predictable arena cock rock.  rock on brothers and sisters.  was there a moment where eveyone stuck their lighters up in the air?   or is that move done on iphones now with a video of a lighter playing? 

    • Oldrocker

      Actually there were several lighters held in the air and it was a testament to the greatness of the moment

  • Chuck

    Ricardo, are you sure you were not describing yourself when you used the term “bland monolith?”  I was at that show and I thought the Foo Fighters as a band played inspired and put interesting twists on old standards like “Learn to Fly.”  Like the great bands of the past, including Led Zeppelin, the Foo Fighters redesigned their old standards into fresh sounding songs.  They are one of the few rock bands still putting out albums that hold up and in some cases exceed their past efforts.  What I read was a burned out old rock critic unable to appreciate a truly great band, Kind of like Rolling Stone magazine hacks of the 70s who dissed Led Zeppelin. 

  • RMontera

    I’m guessing Baca also thinks Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones are overrated and uninteresting.  I think a prerequisite for being a music critic, is that you should actually LIKE music.  Reverb has lost all cred on this one, and The Denver Post should feel ashamed for including this in their newspaper.

  • Jennifernoel

    I can’t believe you would call THAT show “bland.” Really? Which part? The 3 hours that they ROCKED the Pepsi Center? The parts when Dave would hush the crowd so he could “scream his balls off”? Huh. If that show was bland, I don’t think I could stand to be rocked. 

  • Bretrick

    Wow!  I mean I am shocked on this article.  I saw a totally different show.  The best I have ever seen in my 37 years of existence.  They rocked the house and you can tell that they care about their fans.  I was right in front and blown away on how great they sounded.  True rock and guitars and screaming and awesome drums and screaming guitars and explosive melody to my freaking ears that I will never forget.  You could tell how much everyone liked that show when it was happening.  Thank you Foo!

  • Sharon

    Foos were  f – ing amazing!!! We’re from the UK and have just got back after 3 days in Denver just to see the Foos at the Pepsi Centre – although we did get to see the mountains as well!!! .  Suffering from jet lag now – but so so worth it!  We were on the floor and definately rocked our 40+ year old arses!!  Saw them at Wembley in London a few years ago – they just get better and better!!

    • Paula

      The Wembley show is my favorite one to watch on You Tube!

  • Paula

     This Ricardo guy is a clown. Any musician out there knows what a tight, talented band they are. The Foo Fighters are hands down the best band in rock today. How many bands play their hearts out for almost 3 hours?! This was one of the best shows I’ve been to!

  • keefus

    I was on the floor on the left side-front row across from the pissed looking security guy and the sound tech pit. The wife and I were floored by the energy, sound and atmosphere that the Foos have and create in their crowds. This was our 4th Foo show, and this was by far the best-Wifey got a guitar pick from Chris, I got laid, and the purple floor wrist bands will stay on the mantle as a symbol of quite possibly the best show I’ve ever been too.

  • Luvmeedoo

    I think the Foo Fighters are anything but bland.  I know it actually…do you own any of their albums?  And their newest one…awesome.  They are technically amazing, every song is worth listening to.  You don’t have to love the band to admit they rock.  If White Limo is bland you gotta be deaf…or dead.

  • Apuse10

    At first I was mad at your article…I came from Texas to see the show with my brother who is from Jackson hole.  I am 42 and have loved the FF since they began.  BUT!!!  I agree that there was no originality to the show.  Although awesome, I expected more.  My bro and I left Denver and head NW to SLC to see them again in hoping there was some different mix.  There was no different mix and the crowd at SLC…totally lame.  Denver was the place to be.  Not many people realize that the Foo’s are very creative with a ton of great songs. 
    Totally respect your article. thanks.


  • b b

    I find it incredibly funny that people are still talking about this show, I was at a party last night I thought people were going to riot #occupy style the Reverb offices. Idk Baca and from the sounds of it I dont want to know Baca. I personally think this is a good site for the pictures but the written content is far too personal and lacks anything worth actually reading and thus evaluating for any particular value.

    The party I was referring to was a group of marketing people who were discussing the trends and that reviews should be left to people, since people like to review let them do it. Professional paid reviewers opinion is no longer needed. Reverb is a old trick that we have all seen, and from the looks of the traffic on this particular show it seems as the people have spoken. Baca was just the unfortunate opinion that set the people off.I think that article was lazy and worthless. I was at the concert and I thought it was the best concert I’ve seen in a long long time. I remember the days of the Rainbow music hall and Red Rocks when it wasn’t about the light show or the theater but about the music. Dave Grohl played the music and the reviewer forgot that because he was far too busy picking pieces when as a whole the concert was satisfying in every way but that’s my opinion.