September 14, 2011
Xcel Energy Center
"I fucking love my job!" exclaimed Dave Grohl, deep into the Foo Fighters two-hour, forty-minute marathon set at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center Wednesday night. And, after a performance as wildly energetic as this show was, none of the 13,000+ fans in the crowd can ever doubt his words. The Foos kicked off their fall tour in St. Paul in grand fashion, looking and sounding revitalized throughout the never-ending show, smoothly mixing in plenty of new songs from Wasting Light, alongside their older hits and some choice covers. It was fun. It was fucking loud. In short, it was everything a rock 'n' roll show should be.
The band took the stage behind a series of cool, tri-sided LCD screens that rose to reveal the quartet, already in the midst of opener "Bridge Burning." And while most bands take a few songs to hit their stride, especially at arena shows, the Foos caught fire on the second track of the evening, a blistering version of "Rope" which found Grohl and the band giving the song a fiery, thrash finish. "My Hero" was as anthemic and uplifting as it should be, with the entire crowd singing along passionately while Dave made his way towards the back of the arena to solo on a small stage beyond the soundboard (a move he would repeat many times throughout the show).
"You all ready for a long show tonight? We've got too many fucking songs" joked Grohl at this point, giving us all far warning that we should get comfortable because we were going to be here for a while. The band really was hitting hard at this point, as ferocious versions of "Learn To Fly," an incendiary "White Limo" (complete with video clips of Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister playing on the screens above the band), and a sensational, tension-filled "Arlandria" that featured a rousing call-and-response between Grohl and the crowd.
Grohl asked how many people were seeing the Foo Fighters for the first time tonight, and when a large amount of the crowd cheered, Dave admonished them hilariously, "15 fucking years and you couldn't come to one fucking show." My guess is that those new fans won't miss them next time they roll through the Cities. But the band was completely blown away by the boisterous support the crowd was showing them, with drummer Taylor Hawkins professing, "I can't believe this many people in Minnesota like our band." Indeed, this turn out would inspire any band to play all night, and the Foos nearly did.
The show hit a bit of a lull at this point, which picked up with fierce versions of "Stacked Actors," "Walk," and an untamed rendition of "Monkey Wrench," which Grohl introduced by saying: "It makes me happy that we can put on a show like this without any computers. Just a couple guys on guitars and a drummer. It's still possible. And it sounds like this when you do it." And indeed, it was refreshing to see a bunch of guys working their instruments into the ground, creating a massive sound that simply filled the place. And while their three-guitar, arena rock attack isn't revolutionizing the world of music by any means, their sound obviously has an broad appeal and should be celebrated.
The last hour of the performance turned what was a good show into a great one, as the band really caught fire and were clearly enjoying themselves along with everyone in the crowd. "These Days" was a rowdy crowd singalong, and the band brought out special guest (and former touring member of the Foos) Jessy Greene to play violin on "I Should Have Known," a song they haven't played on tour yet. Grohl then had a chance to gush a bit about a couple of hometown boys. "This one goes out to Grant [Hart] and Greg [Norton]. Every now and then you get to meet your true fucking heroes. We've got two out of three here tonight. We wouldn't be a band without Hüsker Dü. I wouldn't be a guitar player without that band." And with that generous tribute, the band tore into a blazing version of "This Is A Call" that was one of the highlights of the night.
The main set closed with an explosive rendition of "All My Life," with Grohl asking the crowd before its wild finish, "You wanna fuckin' dance, well let's fuckin' dance then" before the song and the crowd went wild. During the encore break, the screens revealed green security camera-type footage of the band having beers and laughs backstage, before Dave appeared at the small back stage for a couple acoustic songs to start the encore. He brought out Greene once again for a tender version of "See You," which had Grohl exclaiming after Jessy's solo, "God damn! Fucking Jessy Greene!" Which caused her to laugh while the song drew to a close.
Grohl, after first telling the crowd not to think about starting a Wave, "this isn't a fucking hockey game," then demanded that we do one, saying, "No one's ever done the Wave at a Foo Fighters show." It was indeed a night of firsts in more ways than one.
After an impassioned singalong on an acoustic version of "Best Of You," Grohl introduced "Times Like These" by simply stating "I like this song." It was a lengthy solo acoustic introduction before the band kicked in on the main stage and Grohl ran back to meet them and bring the song to its wild finish. "Dear Rosemary" kept the energy level high, but the night truly got special when the band smoothly transitioned into a heartfelt cover of Tom Petty's "Breakdown." Grohl claimed that "every fuckin' rock star wants to be Tom Petty. He's the coolest motherfucker on the planet."
At this point, the band clearly was having a blast, and as a way of thanking their enthusiastic fans they went off script for an impromptu and completely tempestuous cover of Queen's "Tie Your Mother Down," which featured Grohl and Hawkins trading off on vocals. The song really set the place off, and I truly doubt that this fun cover will be played at too many other stops on their tour. "You guys are fucking fun," screamed Grohl emphatically before the set drew to a close with a lively version of "Everlong." Right back at you, Dave.
I first saw Foo Fighters open for Mike Watt at First Avenue in 1995 on his "Get In The Ring" tour. I've been a fan ever since, but I hadn't seen them play live again until now.
The Crowd: Lots of testosterone. Lots of drinking. Lots of fun.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Grohl has the best fucking hair in all of rock 'n' roll."
Random Notebook Dump: It was a real treat to see former Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel perform again. And Pat Smear never stops smiling, even when he has a cigarette in his mouth.
For More Photos: See our slideshow of openers Rise Against here.
Learn To Fly
Cold Day In The Sun
Long Road To Ruin
I Should Have Known
Skin And Bones
This Is A Call
All My Life
See You (Acoustic w/Jessy Greene)(Encore)
Best Of You (Acoustic)(Encore)
Times Like These (Encore)
Dear Rosemary (Encore)
Breakdown (Tom Petty)(Encore)
Tie Your Mother Down (Queen)(Encore)
Editors note: We declined to photograph Foo Fighters from the photo pit because of an alarmingly restrictive photo waiver. Read more on this recent music industry trend and see the waiver here.
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