Concert Review: Foo Fighters Kick Out the Jams in West Palm

Last fall, I had an idea to write an article titled “Where Have All the Rock Bands Gone?,” detailing the plight of rock booking in South Florida. The idea was that this region was missing out on the biggest rock n’ roll tours and concerts because there was no viable method of promotion following the demise of our local rock radio station, The Buzz 103.1. The centerpiece of that article would have been the Foo Fighters’ 10-year absence. The day after I started writing it, they announced last night’s show in West Palm Beach, it sold out almost immediately, and I scrapped the idea.

To a writer and music fan like myself, the Foo Fighters are a gift. A Foo Fighters show provides too much to write about, while most don’t provide enough. Frontman Dave Grohl, everyone’s favorite rock star and recipient of every rock superlative imaginable, is endlessly charismatic, bantering with the crowd and pulling out every stop to provide a memorable, entertaining show.

On Thursday night at West Palm Beach’s Coral Sky Ampitheatre, Foo Fighters made a triumphant, bombastic return to South Florida after a decade’s absence. A band that truly has nothing left to prove, Dave Grohl and company ripped through 20-plus songs over the course of a nearly three-hour-long set, and reminded the South Florida crowd what it had been waiting for all those years.

Early in the show, in the middle of a frenzied rendition of 2007 hit “The Pretender,” Grohl stopped and remarked to the crowd, “It’s been a long time, right? You know it’s been a long time. That means we gotta play everything we got.”

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This band has hits. Each studio album from 1995’s Foo Fighters to last year’s Concrete & Gold was represented (with the exception of 2014’s lackluster Sonic Highways) and not a single song throughout the course of the marathon set felt out of place. Surely, countless attendees will be hoarse or without their voices today, a consequence of the massive sing-alongs that erupted during songs like “Learn to Fly,” “Breakout,” “Times Like These,” and “Best of You,” just to name a few.

The most impressive aspect of the show was the band’s ability to stretch and knead its songs, similarly to the way a jam-band would, without forfeiting any of the songs’ impact. Take “The Pretender” for example: Released as a four-and-a-half-minute song, the group’s live rendition stretched to nearly 12 minutes, all while maintaining the same thrill of the brisk recorded version. The same could be said for most of the other original songs on the set list, and it was during these extensions and improvisations that the members of the band truly shined.

As if the group didn’t have enough of its own hits to play, it made time for a deluge of covers, many of which were utilized to feature band members not named Dave Grohl. First came Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels,” with lead guitarist Chris Shiflett on lead vocals. Next came the band’s introductions, provided during a medley of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” a strangely calm version of Van Halen’s “Jump” interpolated with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and finally the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The medley was followed by a version of Queen’s “Under Pressure” during which Grohl (introduced by Taylor Hawkins as “the heaviest foot in rock n’ roll”) played drums and Hawkins assumed lead vocal duties. A few songs later, the group tore through a head-banging cover of The Who’s version of “Young Man Blues,” first performed by the group at a ceremony honoring The Who 10 years ago.

I’ve never seen a band that’s been together for more than 20 years have this much fun onstage. The group brought something old with tracks from its first record and cover songs from its members’ childhoods. It brought something new with the addition of three backing singers for tracks from Concrete & Gold. It did something outrageous by sticking Taylor Hawkins and his drum set on an incredible rising platform that elevated over the rest of the band during his solo. All the while, each musician appeared to relish the opportunity to perform, and that positive energy radiated into the crowd throughout the show.

Before show closer “Everlong,” Grohl tenderly addressed the crowd: “I don’t think we should wait another 10 years to come back here … so we don’t have to say goodbye. We can just say, ‘See you next time.’”

Hopefully this time we don’t have to wait quite so long.

SET LIST

  1. Run
  2. All My Life
  3. Learn to Fly
  4. The Pretender
  5. The Sky Is a Neighborhood
  6. Rope
  7. Drum Solo
  8. Sunday Rain
  9. My Hero
  10. These Days
  11. Walk
  12. Breakout
  13. Under My Wheels (Alice Cooper cover)
  14. Medley: Another One Bites the Dust / Imagine/Jump / Blitzkrieg Bop
  15. Under Pressure (Queen cover)
  16. Monkey Wrench
  17. Times Like These
  18. Young Man Blues (Mose Allison cover / The Who version)
  19. Big Me
  20. Best of You

ENCORE

  1. Dirty Water
  2. This Is a Call
  3. Everlong