Dave Grohl doesn’t just play music. He performs.
And loves every minute of it.
Grohl promised a long night and indeed it was as Foo Fighters spent nearly three hours on a 22 song set on Tuesday at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR that included extended guitar jams, drum and piano solos, a birthday ode to Little Richard, snippets of cover songs and Grohl returning to his roots playing drums on one song.
A sold-out crowd packed the home court for the University of Oregon, an arena a third the size of the typical venue – a most welcome stop for a top-drawer act in rock music. The crowd and Foo Fighters rocked from the opening guitar lick to the final note. Foo Fighters recently started their 2017 tour supporting their ninth album Concrete and Gold released in September and this is just the beginning. Dates already on sale for additional stops throughout 2018 including Portland in September.
It’s a rare treat to see a high caliber act like Foo Fighters play such an intimate venue compared to dates scheduled for Fenway Park and Safeco Field in Seattle next year. And yes, if you missed it, well, you missed it.
Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters founder who has established himself already as an icon in the rock world was on point all evening. Gone was the “throne” he sat in last time out thanks to a broken leg. It was vintage head-banging, hard-rocking Grohl. A guitar never left his hands, he immersed himself to the audience whilst playing breakneck chords and perpetually screaming. How he does it? Who knows. He never lost his voice, well, just a bit – once. He regularly engaged with the audience, asking sometimes facetious questions though finally admitted near the end that it was Foo Fighters first visit to Eugene.
The night started with the first single off the new album “Run” which if you haven’t seen the video is worth a watch. The band stayed hidden behind a large curtain while playing the opening bars before the full stage reveal when the heavy chords hit. It was just the start of an exhaustive evening of bona fide rock songs as the band drew from eight of the nine albums (surprisingly, Sonic Highways omitted) released in their 22 year career.
The popular “All My Life” followed then the more mellow “Learning to Fly” which after all the screaming in the prior song Grohl sounded a little hoarse before regaining his composure and showing no worse for the wear the remainder of the evening. Everything you hear on radio, which is a lot, was played as well as a few hardcore fan cuts like “Rope” off 2011’s Wasting Light and “Let it Die” from Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace from 2007.
“The Sky is a Neighborhood” off the new album works very well live, “The Pretender” rocked, Rami Jaffee classed up “My Hero” with a piano solo and little else rises above the emotionally-charged and engaging melody of “Times Like These.” It wasn’t all Grohl either, as lead guitarist Chris Shiflett took vocal duties on the Alice Cooper cover “Under My Wheel” and Hawkins sang the new song “Sunday Rain” in a duet of sorts with Luke Spiller, singer for opening band The Struts, on a most excellent rendition of Queen’s “Under Pressure” as Grohl played drums.
But, don’t you just hate it when a band takes their most cherished songs and mixes them up a bit for the live show? Yes, Foo Fighters do just that – but be not afraid, instead of adding some cringe-making arrangements they manage to inject extra flavor serving to only enhance the traditional album version:
- On “Rope” Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins “talked” to each other via instrumentation. It’s a clever technique for musicians to engage in, feeding off one another which the two did before Hawkins’ percussion platform raised about 15 feet above the stage and he took over with a short solo as Grohl enjoyed a cigarette break, watching as a fan.
- “The Pretender” received a near 10 minute extension as Grohl walked all over the place, acknowledged Little Richard’s birthday and mostly turned screwing around into an art form.
- “Best of You” closed the first set and didn’t end quietly.
In fact, every song received special live treatment whether it was extended guitar work, various soloing or Grohl using a bit of stop- or slow-play to add a little fun before bringing the audience back to attention. It actually left you wondering what they’d incorporate for the next song.
However, it wasn’t a slick three hours. The evening ran into some molasses about two hours in after taking nearly 20 minutes for band member introductions, each flexing a little of their talent while Grohl egged his bandmates on or implored the crowd for acknowledgements. This led to bits and pieces of cover songs including “Another One Bites the Dust” from Queen and “Tom Sawyer” by Rush which prior to Grohl asked the crowd “Do you honestly think Foo Fighters can play a Rush song?” They ripped into the familiar chords for about a minute before he cut it off and said “That’s a musical minefield.”
Finally, Foo Fighters encored with “Dirty Water” off Concrete and Gold which really grows on you with that outstanding last half. Reminds me of that Australian band Pray TV from the 1990s. Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” and the popular “Everlong” ended the show.
This band succeeds where many fail by releasing songs fans not only fully embrace but that already sound like part of their collection of hits. And, every artist seemingly has a song or two they enjoy playing live along with newer album fare that doesn’t yet fully resonate with the audience. The “bathroom break” songs, if you will. Not Foo Fighters. The multitude met every song played off Concrete and Gold with rock and roll vigor. It only serves as a testament to the quality of material Foo Fighters release every few years and the stage presence of the band but especially Grohl. The growing legend in this industry brings limitless energy, passion and dedication to his craft and the live show.
Undeniably, Foo Fighters release album after album of guitar-centric, straight forward hard rock with pounding drums and rabid bass lines without walking back over themselves. After starting as a one-man show, then some line-up changes, Groh has found a core group of musicians to carry his band forward in the far term. For his part, Grohl is not only a gifted artist but a consummate professional who puts his heart and soul into every performance. He jokes, he’s a goof (wore an oddly appropriate headlamp during “Breakout”) and plays like no other. He eats the stage with vigor while his energy overflows into the audience making Foo Fighters concerts an entertaining spectacle grounded in a solid setlist of songs.
Foo Fighters Eugene, OR Setlist at Matthew Knight Arena
- All My Life
- Learn To Fly
- The Pretender
- The Sky Is A Neighborhood
- Sunday Rain
- My Hero
- These Days
- Let It Die
- Times Like These
- Under My Wheels
- Tom Sawyer
- Under Pressure
- Monkey Wrench
- Big Me
- Best of You
- Dirty Water