American stadium rockers Foo Fighters were finally confirmed for that historic first Pyramid Stage headline slot at Glastonbury Festival 2015, closing out Friday night, with Kanye West taking Saturday night and legends The Who closing the stage on Sunday. And then the unthinkable happened. Just weeks before that career-defining headline slot, frontman Dave Grohl took a misstep on stage while the group played a massive show in Gothenburg, Sweden and broke his leg.
While Grohl returned to the Ullevi Stadium stage to continue the show, albeit sat in a chair, the rest of the group’s summer shows including that Glastonbury headline slot were cancelled. Florence + The Machine famously stepped up to Friday night headliner and squeezed in a cover of Foos hit Times Like These in tribute to our fallen hero.
Then in February, with Grohl’s leg all healed up, the rumour mill started buzzing and Foo Fighters took a trip to Frome in Somerset, even visiting an empty Worthy Farm with Michael Eavis, to announce their make-up headline slot at Glastonbury Festival with a tiny show at Frome’s Cheese and Grain venue.
Fast forward to June 244th 2017 and those parked at the very front of the crowd at a packed Pyramid field in Pilton, Somerset chuckle as stage hands plaster bright green tape along the stage edges, ensuring as best they can that there is no repeat incident tonight – it’s a long drop (no pun intended) from the Pyramid stage to ground after all! And as Dave Grohl steps onto the stage accompanied only with his signature blue Gibson ES-335 guitar, all is right in the Glastonbury world once again.
“I’m about two years late tonight, I’m sorry. Traffic was a bitch!” the 48-year-old jested as he strummed a D chord repeatedly. “For all of you that were here in 2015, I’m sorry I missed ya“ he continued before describing how he was brought to tears watching Florence + The Machine cover a Foo Fighters song during their Pyramid Stage slot. “As I was sitting in my wheelchair, all of a sudden, she played a fuckin’ Foo Fighters song, way better than we’ve ever played a Foo Fighters song” he praised before going on to dedicate a mostly solo rendition of Times Like These to Florence Welch, the rest of the band bounding onto stage to finish off the One By One cut loudly before diving straight into the anticipatory opening riff of All My Life, the crowd descending into chaos as soon as drummer Taylor Hawkins and bassist Nate Mendel’s rhythm section kicked in.
The hits came thick and fast, Grohl’s men tearing straight into 1999 hit Learn To Fly and 2014’s Something From Nothing before 2007 single The Pretender, the frontman using any musical breaks to bound about the full length of the Pyramid Stage, scream, request the audience sing and dance along with him as well as getting up close with lead guitarist Chris Shiflett. “It’s gonna be a long night, you know that right?” Grohl teased, “I think tonight we should just play until they kick us off” be continued before going on to tease playing songs from all eight released studio records and stating “maybe we’ll do some from the ninth one that you haven’t even heard yet”.
After beating the crowd to a pulp with anthem after anthem, the rockers took a breather with Grohl taking time out to introduce his band, requesting each member throw out a solo, Shiflett choosing guitar licks from Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever and Nate Mendel diving straight into the first Queen reference of the evening, the thick bassline of Another One Bites The Dust encouraging Taylor Hawkins to join him on drums and vocals before Hawkins took over lead vocal duties proper for the only Foo Fighters song not sung by Grohl – In Your Honor cut Cold Day In The Sun.
Wasting Light single Walk was dedicated to Grohl’s surgeon “his name’s James, I went to him and said ‘I know I have a broken leg but could you make me look older?’” the frontman joked. A musical break in These Days had the Pyramid stage crowd singing in unison, Grohl commenting “leave it to Glastonbury to have a singalong in a place we’ve never had a singalong before”, his cheeky grin and sarcastic humour all the more endearing. “It’s starting to get good, I see a naked guy, this one’s for him!” the Springfield, Virginia native screamed introducing sophomore album hit My Hero and pointing out an actual naked guy sat on a friend’s shoulders in the crowd. “Do it for Michael, do it for Emily, do it for Katy Perry, big one for Liam” Grohl requested of the crowd as they customarily took over vocal duties for a section of the song.
“We got lucky man, it’s a beautiful night” the frontman said, commenting on the unusually dry and clear weather the festival was gifted. “This is an old song that we don’t play very often, ‘cause no one likes it” he continued to laughs from the crowd before breaking into a slowed-down rendition of 2009 single Wheels. In complete contrast to when mobile phone torches usually light up arenas, Grohl chose midway through The Colour and the Shape belter Monkey Wrench to slow proceedings down and request the main lights be turned down for the audience to produce a sea of stars from their mobile phones across the crowd.
Edging towards the end of the night, Grohl asked of his audience “you got one more in you don’t you?” before responding “You lightweights!”, the crowd replying in turn with chants of “ten more songs”. “I’m just going to play until they tell us to stop” the frontman continued to tease while strumming the opening chord of 2005 hit Best Of You.
“We were doing an interview and someone said ‘there’s no swearing at Glastonbury’ I thought ‘what the fuck is that supposed to fuckin’ mean?” Grohl said to huge laughs. “I guess Adele holds the record for the most fucks in a Glastonbury appearance” he continued, referencing the English singer’s 2016 potty-mouthed Saturday headline slot. “Now I love Adele, but guess what?” he said before breaking into a chant of f-bombs atop the guitar intro to non-album track Skin and Bones, easily breaking Adele’s record of 33, before ploughing into the number which featured newest formal band member and former Wallflowers man Rami Jaffee on keys putting out an accordion solo.
Mixing things up, Grohl handed lead vocal duties over to Hawkins next, taking up the sticks himself, for a rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s 1982 hit Under Pressure, Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s children watching from the wings alongside an A-list crowd including David and Brooklyn Beckham.
“I feel loose, I feel good and I feel like this is the big one” the frontman said, finally accepting the crown headlining Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage offers before going on to share his love of the UK: “This country has always been so good to us, this is where we cut our teeth, this is where we became a band and if it weren’t for you people we wouldn’t be here right now”.
“We never really say goodbye, we just say this” Grohl said before closing the night out with Foo Fighters’ most enduring hit, 1997 single Everlong, fireworks launching from the top of the Pyramid Stage as the song and our evening with the Foo Fighters reached its conclusion.
Foo Fighters turn as Glastonbury Festival headliners was a true masterclass in putting on a huge, crowd pleasing show without any gimmicks bar a few closing fireworks. There were no special guests, no runways and guitar duels, not even an encore! But all nine studio albums were touched upon, from their self-titled debut, huge sophomore record The Colour and the Shape, through to 2011’s Wasting Light and 2014’s Sonic Highways. It was a shame, however, that they chose to omit debut album cut For All The Cows while playing a dairy farm #missedopportunity.
Foo Fighters continue their European festival tour with stops at Poland’s Open’er, Denmark’s Roskilde, Spain’s Mad Cool Festival and Portugal’s NOS Alive among others before returning to the UK for a one-off show at London’s O2 Arena on 19th September in celebration of the venue’s 10th birthday.
Photography & Words by Kalpesh Patel at Glastonbury Festival 2017
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate