Any musician can make a crowd do the wave. Dave Grohl can make a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden do the wave using only his face.
“I’m going to wind up on one of those behind the music specials,” Grohl admitted during the encore. “It was all good until I started making people do the wave with my fucking face. Then I lost everything,” he added. “But that’s not what I’m here to do right now, because I don’t know how to play sports.”
Fronted by Dave Grohl and including a cast of characters from the band’s past and hopeful future, the Foo Fighters screamed through a monster three-hour set on November 13, complete with an extended back and forth solo-off between Grohl and lead guitarist Chris Shiflett during “Learn to Fly.”
While Grohl raced back and forth along the floor of the Garden, the Fighters would go through almost every song on their latest album, Wasting Light, as well as some old favorites, “The Pretender,” “My Hero,” and, for “all the old Foo Fighter’s fans in the audience,” “Breakout.”
Openers The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion, who covered Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” during their set, each performed well in their own right, but fans were eagerly anticipating the headliners to begin.
And they were not disappointed. With only a few exceptions, the entirety of the crowd was on its feet as the house lights came down, rising only after the first riffs of “Bridge Burning” began.
The next three hours would be filled with a screaming Grohl who eventually gave up on finishing the lyrics of each line and proceeded to howl like a madman, in addition to a wonderful vocal performance by drummer Taylor Hawkins on “Cold Day in the Sun.”
As they closed down the set with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh?” and “All My Life,” a song off the 2002 album One By One that I heard during a stint in Finland, fans eagerly anticipated an encore.
Several minutes after the band left the stage, Grohl appeared, sans audio, on the jumbotron shown only in night vision. He and Hawkins appeared to be arguing and continuously coaxed the audience to get louder for more and more encore songs.
Eventually, at the suggestion of guitarist Pat Smear, the Foo Fighters agreed to a seven-song encore, the first half of which was performed acoustically by Grohl.
Standing on a platform at the far end of the Garden, Grohl greeted the fans in the nosebleed sections saying, “Sorry about your shitty fucking seats. For the next little while, your seats aren’t shitty anymore.”
He launched into acoustic versions of “Wheels,” a song he described as “only fucking popular in Germany,” as well as “Best of You” and “Times Like These.”
Look out for a performance by the Fighters at the Bowery Ballroom, if Grohl is a man of his word. The crowd at the Garden was able to sing the lyrics of “Wheels” back louder than the Germans, fulfilling their end of a deal where the band would play at a venue of the crowd’s choice. Why they chose the Ballroom, goodness only knows.
The second half of the encore included a spot from Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould, who supplied his vocal expertise to “Dear Rosemary” on Wasting Light, and a surprise visit from Joan Jett herself during a rendition of “Bad Reputation.”
Closing with “Everlong,” the Foo Fighters left their fans satisfied with a solid night’s worth of loud, raw and computer-less rock n’ roll. To the people who had answered “yes” to Grohl’s question, “How many of you are seeing us for the first time tonight?,” they could be satisfied with his response of, “Awesome. We used to suck and now we shred every night.” Shred, the Foo Fighters did.