Foo Fighters, October 19, 2011: Oakland, CA

Foo Fighters

It’s inevitable: as you grow older, your taste in music changes. There are bands that come to symbolize times in your life, soundtracks to niches in your memory.

There are rare bands that transcend time, ones that grow with you and mark the important internal changes with their music. For me, Dave Grohl is a man who has crossed this divide, first with Nirvana and later with the Foo Fighters. I love the Foo Fighters and Grohl because he will forever live in the parenthetical shadow of Kurt Cobain, yet he has accomplished so much more. Cobain created a rebellion, yet Grohl lives in the world that changed after it. His songs have grown like Nirvana’s never did. And in the wake of the martyrdom and iconification of Nirvana, perhaps this┬áis what I was the band I truly wanted to love.

Their October 19, 2011 show in Oakland, CA also featured Mariachi El Bronx and Cage the Elephant, but let’s not kid ourselves here – those bands were, respectively, mediocre and decent, but it was the Foo Fighters that brought the house down in a blistering two-and-a-half hour set.

Rarely do bands – especially ones as popular as this – show the zeal that the Foo Fighters show. Grohl strutted, pranced, headbanged, and ran all over the stage and general floor area. He was, in short, every bit the frontman you want from a world-famous, arena-headling rock band. And amidst the theatrics, he was always in control, exchanging occasional witticisms with drummer Taylor Hawkins (one of the world’s hardest-working drummers in a band formed by an ex-drummer), commenting upon his thoughts upon “machines” making music (you can guess what those were), and playing the crowd as skillfully as he would an instrument.

The highlights of the show were the incredible energy of the opening numbers: “Bridge Burning”, “Rope”, and “The Pretender”. But it wasn’t just newer stuff – many of the classics were mixed in the setlist, including “Learn to Fly”, an amazing version of “Monkey Wrench” that included a 3+ minute guitar jam session with the lights turned off, “Stacked Actors” (a surprising choice; I never knew it to be popular though I personally love it), and – of course – “Everlong”.

One of the cooler moments was Bob Mould jamming with the band on “Dear Rosemary” (an absolutely underrated and beautiful song from the new album Wasting Light) which morphed into a groovy cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Breakdown”.

Even the softer songs were played loud; Taylor Hawkins’ singing on “Cold Day in the Sun” was dominated by crunchy guitar riffs and his own pounding drumming. “Everlong”‘s lyrics weren’t indecipherable because of the heavy guitar distortion and Grohl’s tired voice after two-and-a-half hours… but the crowd ate it up all the same. For a song that iconic, lyrics are purely optional. Even in the handful of acoustic songs after the encore, this was firmly a ROCK show, written in glowing capital fire-branded letters across the sky.

If a rock concert is about learning to love the band even more, the Foo Fighters succeeded wildly beyond my expectations.