Foo Fighters Return To London With Cathartic Heartfelt Rock ‘N’ Roll Authenticity

WARNING: This review contains gushing sentiment and unfiltered, fruity language. You’ve been warned!

“Do you love rock ‘n’ roll music?” Dave Grohl screams from the stage to a very full London Stadium. “Guess what? GUESS WHAT!?” he demands. “I fuckin’ love rock ‘n’ roll music and that’s what we’re gonna give you for the next three fuckin’ hours!” he promises.

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)
Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)

There are rock shows. And then there are Foo Fighters shows. But for a while, it wasn’t clear if there would be any more Foo Fighters shows following the untimely passing of drummer and sometimes frontman for the Dave Grohl-led band, Taylor Hawkins, in March 2022 at just 50 years of age. But just as Grohl had produced the first Foo Fighters record as a catharsis following the passing of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, channelling the only thing he knew how to do to tape, Foo Fighters’ 11th LP But Here We Are is just that for the passing of Hawkins as well as Grohl’s mother Virginia, who he lost just five months later.

But what’s probably surprising to anyone not familiar with the group, or the casual observer, is just how much the new man behind the sticks has been woven into their ongoing fabric. During the obligatory band introductions and musician solos at tonight’s at-capacity London Stadium show, it is Josh Freese who gets the biggest cheer, and the man that Grohl introduces with a deserved gush. “We’re really very lucky to have him here playing with us, so that we can come out and play for you” he says with brutal honesty.

“You know, he’s been in every band in the fuckin’ world because he’s an incredible drummer. We sometimes like to do a little medley of the bands he’s been in, but it’s too much, it’s too many bands, so we only pick the ones we like” Grohl delivers dryly before the band pick off Devo and Nine Inch Nails cuts to pull into the storming medley that’s ultimately delivered.

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium

Josh Freese of Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)
Josh Freese of Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)

And tonight is also a catharsis for Foo Fighters fans, devastated at the loss of Hawkins but equally happy to be dancing once more to 30 years of rock anthems being delivered in the best way they can: live, with raw adrenalin to a crowd of 75,000. And what better way to kick off proceedings than with a high octane performance of massive 2002 hit All My Life, the crowd bouncing and screaming along it’s spoken-word verses from the off. Heavy Medicine At Midnight tune No Son Of Mine is interjected with delicious guitar riffs from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid as well as Metallica hit Enter Sandman before the troupe dive straight into new album cut Rescued.

And then it’s hit after hit by way of 2007’s The Pretender, Wasting Light single Walk and massive One By One tune Times Like These, the band’s huge catalogue proving a massive well to draw upon. But each tune has, over time, been expanded from its recorded version to a powerhouse live incarnation that elevates.

“Who’s never seen the Foo Fighters before? Be honest” the Springfield, Virginia-hailing frontman asks, and in response to the volume of hands raised in his audience he responds “you’re my target demographic”, Grohl’s dry wit landing with his audience each and every time tonight. “Those of you who’ve seen the Foo Fighters before, you know we don’t fuck around, we come out here and we blast as many songs as we can before they tell us to leave” he continues. “So tonight, all you young bloods, you newbies … I’ve fuckin’ got your ass tonight, you’re mine motherfuckers!”

The band dive deep next for third LP tune Generator, the bouncy tune perfect for tonight’s glorious summer evening. “We got one for you fuckin’ old-skool fans” the 55-year-old frontman teases before storming Stacked Actors from the same LP is delivered, circle pits in the standing audience wasting no time to get pushy as the song pivots from slow groove to pulsing hard rock. Breakout continues the excavation into There Is Nothing Left to Lose.

“You know, we’ve been a band for 30 years” Grohl states. “So when we come out to do this we try to give everybody a little something from every record we’ve done for 30 years, as long as you sing along” he requests, and we oblige of course as a gentle rendition of seminal sophomore LP The Colour And The Shape tune My Hero is slowly dialled up, delicate keys from Rami Jaffee atop strummed guitars from Grohl complemented by guitars from Chris Shiflett & Pat Smear, bass from Nate Mendel and, of course, powerhouse drumming from Freese. “You fuckers are loud man!” Grohl laughs as the 75,000-strong crowd sing the chorus back at him before 2017’s glorious The Sky Is A Neighborhood is aired.

1999 hit Learn To Fly offers the poppiest tune tonight, the group then diving directly into pounding 2011 single Arlandria, before Grohl requests These Days be sung together. “That’s not how the song goes” he says flatly in response to the crowd’s singing. “That part is over and, ah, we move on to the next part of the song” he continues, the ongoing lighthearted crowd interaction one of the key aspects of ridiculously fun Foo Fighters shows.

The frontman then switches out his electric guitar for an acoustic, as he and Rami Jaffee – now sporting an accordion – step to the front of the runway, attached to tonight’s stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the part of the show where we have an accordion on stage, how about that?” he poses as Skin And Bones from 2005’s half rock, half acoustic In Your Honor LP is aired. A brief foray into Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven allows for a collapsing audience member to be escorted out, Grohl responding to audiences calls of “No Stairway” with “I have a Led Zeppelin tattoo, I can play that shit all night”, forgoing mentioning his personal relationships with that band’s surviving members which include him forming rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones alongside Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme.

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)
Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)

A solo acoustic rendition of debut LP single Big Me is introduced by Grohl as “the first love song I ever wrote” before new album cut Under You, an ode to his relationship with Taylor Hawkins requires the audience to carry the singer through the gut-wrenching song, and we must. “Pictures of us sharing songs and cigarettes, this is how I’ll always picture you”, we sing for him through our tears.

Nothing At All reintroduces the band to the stage to lift the tempo once more, a lick from Beatles tune Blackbird thrown in for good measure. “It’s at this point in the rock concert that I like to dance” Grohl shares, massive 1997 hit Monkey Wrench throwing the crowd into chaos once more, Shiflett’s guitars accentuating the tune far beyond the original as we all “fall in, fall out”.

“Okee dokee artichokee” Grohl says at the tune’s conclusion, just about the least rock ‘n’ roll statement coming from the most rock ‘n’ roll dude. “I’d like my favourite singer in the world to come out and duet with me” he teases next as his daughter, Violet Grohl appears on stage for a beautiful delivery of Show Me How – one of 11th LP’s odes to her grandmother, Virginia Grohl.

“This one we do every night, because it was Taylor Hawkins’ favourite Foo Fighters song” Grohl shares, third LP tune Aurora – the very first Foo Fighters song the late band member recorded drums for – flowing gently over the London crowd as Hawkins’ famous hawk emblem appears on the huge screen forming tonight’s stage backdrop, Grohl taking the time to look up towards his best friend and departed brother in music, the poignancy of the moment not lost on either band nor audience.

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)

Charging 2005 single Best Of You closes out the main set, a 75,000-strong crowd chorus of “oh, ho-oh” spurring the band to reappear on stage for the customary encore which sees the frontman sporting a Gibson double-necked guitar (made cool by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page of course), for a superb delivery of another Virginia Grohl-inspired But Here We Are cut: 10-minute long, winding tune The Teacher.

Josh Freese gives up his drum set seat for Taylor Hawkins’ son Shane Hawkins to take position for a high-octane delivery of debut album I’ll Stick Around, the young Hawkins more than proving his drumming chops before the night is closed out in usual Foo Fighters fashion with their most famous tune, Everlong.

And as the band depart the London Stadium stage for good this time, the crowd continue to sing. As we weave our way slowly out of the massive stadium, the euphoria of what we’ve just experienced washes over us all. And that’s the gift this band leave us with. Every single time. And we thank them for it.

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium

Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)
Foo Fighters @ London Stadium (Kalpesh Patel)

Live review & photography of Foo Fighters at London Stadium on 20th June 2024 by Kalpesh Patel. Images taken with a Sony RX100 VII compact camera.

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