With the Fourth of July weekend upon them, the crowd that filed into New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom was in no hurry to stay sober. With bartenders frantically filling just about everyone’s order, it was clear that the Foo Fighters’ performance would be a raging success – if for no other reason than the good vibes, booze, and impending holiday weekend.
Opening for the Foo was My Morning Jacket followed by Pete Yorn. They are two decent acts, but all in all were horribly matched to the headliners. It appeared through both acts that nobody was impressed - rather, annoyed with the fact that there were two slow, slightly whiny performers preceding the glory that is Dave Grohl and the Foo.
Once the opening bands had been cleared off stage (to the audience’s delight, I might add), the house lights were doused and the crowd roared excitedly. Sure, the Foo Fighters are a stellar band… but what makes everyone go all a-tizzy?
Why? Because Dave is one of us. He’s a regular guy. He laughs at himself and isn’t afraid to be, well, silly. He doesn’t stand for bullshit, and he isn’t afraid to make his opinion known (i.e., Courtney Love). He’s the working man’s hero - a buddy, even. And we like to see our friends make it. We’re happy for Dave, and even happier that he hasn’t forgotten how to relate to a crowd.
At both of the NYC shows the Hammerstein Ballroom absolutely shook with intensity, as there is only one way to describe Taylor Hawkins drumming – tremendous. The whole building vibrated as he played. Thick, whole and momentous, I don’t think I’ve ever heard drumming quite so noteworthy in a long time. In particular, his solo in “Stacked Actors” blew everyone away. And this guy used to drum for Alanis Morrissette? What?
Ripping through the extended versions of “Monkeywrench” and “Stacked Actors”, both Hawkins and Grohl got their chance to demonstrate the skilled musicianship that goes into each Foo record. About 15 minutes into the set, Grohl paused to say “hello” to the crowd… and to banter a bit with them.
This is key to really connecting with the audience. Most often it’s the live performances that give fans a hint as to what performers are really like as people. Grohl does this at every show, and it’s a good idea. He’s very entertaining.
Directing the crowd to the band’s website, FooFighters.com, Grohl mentioned that they should check out the new video for “Low”, as it’s “funny as shit,” and that he was thinking “…video of the year, baby. None of that M2 at fucking 11 o’clock shit. We’re talking prime time!”
While he spoke, he fooled around with his guitar, mentioning the fact that he leaves all the fancy solo stuff to guitarist Chris Shiflett because “Uncle Dave doesn’t do that shit, okay? Just chords.” The crowd responded with cheers and laughter as he continued.
“I like to pause to say hello, because soon we’re going to just rip into hit after hit after hit, oh, for the next hour or so…” said Grohl, answered by an excited cheer from the audience. And rip they did.
At once the crowd was in complete motion, the floor a waving, heaving mass of people. The band gave energy-ridden performances of “My Hero”, “The One”, “Enough Space”, “Low”, “This is a Call” and others, leaving just about everyone breathless.
In between songs, Grohl turned his attention skyward to the lighting rig, relating the story of how they’ve never played the Hammerstein before, and how they’d frequented the Roseland Ballroom. There, Grohl said, he could climb the fixtures and get closer to the crowd. The Hammerstein is not so easily scaled – as the lighting rig hung about 15 or 20 feet in the air. Grohl commented, “Fuckin’ scale that thing? Eh, no. I can’t do that. I can’t be Eddie Vedder. As much as I’d like to be, I just can’t. I’ll tell you one thing, though, I’d like to have his paycheck…”
Something tells me you’re not doing so bad, Dave.
Wrapping up the 50 minute set, the Foo departed the stage for only a few minutes, and returned to do an encore set, including a cover of Husker Du’s “Never Talking to You Again” for a friend’s birthday request. What a bunch of nice guys. Can you cover something for my birthday? Hmm?
When the band finished their encore, each member waved to the crowd, mouthing the words “thank you”. The already standing floor jumped as they applauded, sweaty, tired and hoarse, however extremely satisfied.
Big rockstars, humble attitudes and a night of kickass rock - what an excellent way to kick off the holiday weekend.
Michelle Lawlor is a Contributing Writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.