A Foo Fighters show is a difficult thing to pin down, much like the band itself. Originally a personal endeavour by Dave Grohl, late of the Nirvana drumkit, the Foo Fighters have become a six-man band, but, on the strength of last night’s show at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, it’s unclear how Grohl sees things — are they a band in their own right, or just his backing musicians?
For the majority of the show, the latter seemed to be the case, with Grohl front and centre, singing and working his trademark blue semi-acoustic guitar, all hair-tosses and air-punches and trots down a very long runway, as the band worked through a clutch of songs that, ultimately, are more than just a little samey and unremarkable — Run, opening the show, from the band’s latest album Concrete And Gold, largely blurred into All My Life and Learn To Fly, and underlined the fact that the Foo Fighters, searching for a signature sound, have a tendency to play somewhat unremarkable, by-the-numbers hard rock; they are, in many ways, the Phil Collins of grunge, essentially un-challenging heavy-metal easy listening.
But every now and then, Grohl managed to offer hints of something a lot more special. Let It Die, dedicated, he said, to “hard-core Foo Fighters fans,” of whom there would appear to have been a very large number in attendance, took what on record is a perfectly acceptable riff and descended into an altogether angrier and more menacing song, to very pleasing effect, while These Days’ opening riff — the song couldn’t sustain its momentum, sadly, and settled into the band’s usual grind-chug-grind — showed enormous promise as a song with some serious personality. But, bizarrely, it was during a covers interlude, whole songs and snippets during band intros, that the Foo Fighters genuinely came alive. Snatches of Blitzkrieg Bop and Another One Bites The Dust only served to tease and tantalise, while Under My Wheels sounded nearly as good as when Alice Cooper played it at the Trusts Arena last year. Drummer Taylor Hawkins, wearing an Abba singlet, took a guest vocal spot on a highly agreeable reading of Under Pressure, and Rivers Cuomo, who had opened up for the Foo Fighters with the rest of Weezer, came on stage to help out with an outstanding Detroit Rock City.
Grohl himself, however, simply can’t front a show. My guest for the evening, a long-time Foo Fighters fan, despite loving every moment of the music, remarked that she couldn’t understand why Grohl couldn’t shut up. Endless remarks about how “you’re the best audience in the world” and “you’re fucking crazy” and “New Zealand, you really know how to rock” crossed over from the tedious to the tiresome quite early on in the proceedings, His story of the band’s 2011 triggering seismometers was amusing the first time round; by the third or fourth, his over-long band introductions felt like blessed relief.
This review will, of course, likely be quite out of step with the opinions of the forty-odd-thousand fans who stood in the rain for hours to see their favourite band play a three-hour set. There’s no denying the energy on the stage, for most of the show at least, and the audience, comprising as it was, clearly, mostly devoted fans, enjoyed the show enormously. But Hawkins’ over-long drum solo felt profoundly self-indulgent, and as the band slipped into Big Me, as anodyne and bland a song as one could wish to hear at a show like this, I remembered that singing it was the man who had played the drums on Smells Like Teen Spirit, and I found it hard to forgive him.
Weezer at Mount Smart Stadium, 3rd February, 2018, opening for the Foo Fighters