Dave Grohl has now been in one of the biggest rock bands in the world twice. But those two experiences couldn’t have been more different.
A member of Nirvana for less than four years, Grohl drummed on two world-changing albums with the band before frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide. And while Foo Fighters will never be as revered as groundbreakers like Grohl’s previous band, he’s managed the kind of longevity and consistency with Foo Fighters that few of their peers can boast.
Foo Fighters are headlining the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday in support of their ninth studio album, last year’s Concrete and Gold. But they’ll be bringing songs with them from across their entire career, dating back to 1995, when Grohl recorded the self-titled Foo Fighters album as a solo project, recording all the instruments and stepping out front as a lead singer for the first time.
Foo Fighters singles tend to sound like ‘80s SST bands (including Grohl’s biggest songwriting influence, Hüsker Dü) filtered through splashy ‘70s riff rock. But the band’s catalog is more diverse than their greatest hits let on. On their best album, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape, a surprising amount of trebly, chiming guitar gives songs like “See You” and “My Poor Brain” a sparkling power pop luster. Foo Fighters albums are dotted with playful two-minute miniatures like “Hell” and “Up in Arms,” but they also stretch out for occasional six-minute epics like 1999’s luminous slow burner “Aurora.”
Grohl has openly derided 2002’s One by One as “four good songs” padded with filler that the band would never play again. But since then, Foo Fighters have challenged themselves with increasingly ambitious albums. The 2005 double album In Your Honor contrasted a disc of the band’s loudest anthems with an intimate acoustic disc. Wasting Light, from 2010, reunited Grohl with Nevermind producer Butch Vig to great effect, with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic turning up for “I Should Have Known.” For 2014’s Sonic Highways, which was paired with the HBO documentary series of the same name, the band recorded eight songs in eight famous studios in different American cities. And with Concrete and Gold, Grohl chased an offbeat “Slayer meets the Beach Boys” vision with Greg Kurstin, the producer of chart-topping hits by Adele and Kelly Clarkson.
With dozens of rock radio hits to choose from, Foo Fighters don’t make a lot of time for deep cuts. So you might not hear many of these songs on Thursday, aside from Concrete and Gold tracks like the groovy bass-driven highlight “La Dee La.” But at an August “pop-up” set in the parking lot of the Hollywood Palladium, Foo Fighters played several rarely performed ‘90s deep cuts, including “Wattershed,” “Gimme Stitches,” and “Hey, Johnny Park!” So they still know how to play the old stuff.