Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 19, 2018
Foo Fighters held a family reunion at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last night, one complete with long lost relatives finally arriving for the party and a genuinely touching moment between the band’s frontman, Dave Grohl, and the “son” he never knew he had.
The band’s been around for nearly a quarter-century now. It began as a trio born from the remnants of other bands listeners knew and loved. It’s grown, in its own right, into one rock’s most revered acts over the years. It’s also grown in size. At one point during last night’s run of two dozen songs, nine band members crowded the stage, prompting Grohl to muse, “We’re gonna out-member Slipknot before you know it.”
Collectively, they delivered a hits-heavy set with a smattering of the sturdiest songs from last year’s Concrete and Gold. The opening song, “Run,” is from that album and was delivered promptly at 8:15 p.m., right after a winning turn by tourmates, The Struts. The British glam rockers were well received by the crowd. Their workmanlike set rounded out with two of their biggest hits, “Put Your Money on Me” and “Could Have Been Me.”
The crowd was into it, but the highest praise for them came later in the evening from Grohl, who said the band had toured with Foo Fighters previously and that he’d “never seen a fucking band work so hard in my life.”
That’s quite a compliment coming from an act that has elbow-greased its way into fans’ hearts. Their stage blend of musical prowess, good-natured and sometimes self-deprecating humor and rock and roll tropes make for a fun show. My show companion and cousin, Daniel, said “caffeine and honey” best describes the band’s live show, which he’s seen four times now, including once, on the rail and in the rain, at Lollapalooza.
“Caffeine because it’s electric and an eye-opener,” he said, “but it’s sweet and sexy, like honey.”
It came as a bit of a surprise to Grohl when he learned last night’s audience was heavy on first-timers.
“What the fuck?! We’ve been a band for 24 fucking years!” he noted when a majority cheered when asked who was seeing Foo Fighters for the first time. “I get it,” he said, guessing fans had bided their time while the band stacked hit after hit into its repertoire. “We used to suck. Now, we’re fucking badass.”
No one in the crowd would disagree, whether they were there to hear the “oldies” like “This is a Call,” or newer stuff like “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” a trippy cut from Concrete and Gold that called for a trio of backup vocalists and must have had Sir George Martin smiling down from the heavens. By the fourth song of the set, “The Pretender,” both Grohl's and drummer Taylor Hawkins’ long locks were drenched in sweat. And, as Grohl reminded us frequently, the show was just getting started.
One of the best things about Foo Fighters is they wear their hearts like tatoos and wristbands when it comes to their influences. The band did a medley of cover songs that served as a way to introduce its members to so many newcomers. Guitarist Chris Shiflett shredded Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels” and handled vocals, urging Grohl to utter, “I know, you’re thinking, ‘Holy shit, that guy’s too good to be in Foo Fighters.’” He introduced keyboardist Rami Jaffee as the only classically-trained member of the band while he was featured on a mashup of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Rush’s “YYZ.”
Old friend, punk legend and familiar smiling face Pat Smear turned Johnny Ramone for a blistering rendition of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Hawkins, who had already been featured with a dynamic drum solo to close “Rope,” and on lead vocals for “Sunday Rain,” shared the mike with The Struts lead singer, Luke Spiller, during the medley. Spiller is a Freddie Mercury doppelganger, so their version of “Under Pressure” was chills-inducing. Throughout the night, there were subtle, hidden nods to those who informed Foo Fighters’ sound, with flourishes of Santana vibes on “The Pretender” or “All My Life” momentarily morphing into Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.”
As those who’d just arrived to the party learned, Foo Fighters welcomes everyone to these periodic reunions, with open arms. They asked for the lights to be lifted on the throngs to get a better look. They shouted out to “the children of the lawn,” with Grohl asking those with lawn seats, “You sad motherfuckers all the way up there -are you having a good time?” The response was raucous, of course.
Near the end of the show, Grohl noticed a kid in the pit with a sign which read, “No Dad – Be Mine?” We learned the kid’s name was Landon, but the moment allowed Grohl to talk about being a dad to three daughters and the proud owner of a Honda Odyssey minivan.
“This song is older than you,” Grohl told Landon. “For the next four minutes, I’ll be your dad.” Then he went into “Big Me,” perfect for the moment and ending with a split screen of Grohl, the Hall of Fame rock star, and Landon, the young and lucky fan, singing “It’s you I fell into” to each other on the split screen. Then, the kid was invited onstage and saw the rest of the show from the wings, but not before he got a warm and paternal hug from his proud papa.
PERSONAL BIAS: I planned a mini-essay on why “Everlong,” the show-closer, is one of the best rock songs of the last 25 years. Top 10, I’d say. But, who wants to read a rambling dissertation after 1,000 words on the brilliant show itself? If you’re that interested, ask me sometime and be prepared for a thesis-controlled lecture on the subject
THE CROWD: Newbs who knew the songs and Foo Fighters show veterans who knew them better. There were perfectly good seats to sit in, but no one in the auditorium chose to use them all night.
RANDOM NOTEBOOK DUMP: After the show, we stuck around to talk with Landon and learned his name is Landon Mabe. He’s from northeast Texas and is in Houston attending school at Rice University. He still seemed a little dazed from his 15 minutes of fame and was loaded down with the show set list, some of Grohl’s sweatbands, Foo Fighters guitar picks and a photo of himself wearing Grohl’s blue Gibson guitar.
He said his family bought him a pit ticket as a Christmas gift.
“I came here like, you know what, this is my first time being in the pit, I gotta do something, I want to get this guy’s attention because Dave Grohl is like, my idol,” he said. “So I think, hey, let me make a sign and I felt like it would get his attention. I didn’t want to (show) it in the beginning, so I did it in the end and it worked out."
We noted that he was moved to tears when he was invited onstage and that we felt a little teary eyed, too. “I’m being completely serious when I say I’ve dreamed about that exact thing happening for years,” he said.
Foo Fighters Set List
All My Life
Learn to Fly
The Sky is a Neighborhood
Under My Wheels (Alice Cooper cover)
Another One Bites the Dust (Queen cover)
Imagine/YYZ/Jump mashup (John Lennon/Rush/Van Halen covers)
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover)
Under Pressure (Queen cover)
Times Like These
Best of You
This is a Call