Over the past month the Etihad has seen a host of global stars build a home inside its oval dome, each ushering in a different shade of commercial and the mainstream, and showing what they can do; the one man show of Ed Sheeran, the pop masterclass of Taylor Swift and the inimitable joint billing of Jay Z and Beyonce. But nothing quite compares to the gut-rattling live calibre of Foo Fighters. The whole night is a triumph; spread across a near three-hour time span of action-packed performance and crowd rousing involvement. The group are known for their live shows, to witness their level of proficiency in person is to observe wildlife in its natural habitat: uninhibited, engrossing, purposeful. A picture of soul-stirring grace and rock’n’roll showmanship.
The band are well equipped for headlining stadiums – with 24 sterling years spent honing their craft in the music game – they play like a tightly-formed football team; firm on the attack and swift in their landing. What’s surprising is the band’s entrance. Grohl arrives on stage with no fanfare, no ego-satisfying spectacle, no pageantry; just a man and his instrument (entering the arena precisely on time). His comrades in tow, a beat later. For a band of Foo Fighters’ stature, it’s unusual (even rare) to see such, well, normalcy. And throughout, it’s clear they place no esteem on hierarchy or prestige, they just play, and acknowledge, and repeat. The band seem to admire their audience equally as much as their audience adamantly devote themselves to embracing their art.
Possibly the most vital and key ingredient to the band’s success, Grohl and co. actually appreciate and foster a link between themselves and their public, pausing often for extended amounts of time to talk to their audience: “If it weren’t for you people, if it weren’t for this country, we wouldn’t be the band that we are. Because you guys were the first place in the world… You’re the first place we headlined a festival, you’re the first place we headlined an arena, you’re the first place we headlined a f***ing stadium. If it weren’t for all of you people, we wouldn’t be the band we are today, so thank you very much everybody,” Grohl enthusiastically beams before embarking on their finale.
Cherrypicking the finest material from across their extensive catalogue, the set spans across decades and through eras, to conclusively land in the palm of critically-acclaimed ninth album Concrete and Gold (yet very few tracks aired originate from this record, a sign of the band’s persistent eagerness and will to ‘play the hits’). ‘All My Life’ launches the band in a monolithic passage of greatest hits but it is not until song four that we hear a cut from their most recent album. ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ prominently places towering three-part harmonies of backing singers in the forefront, alongside melodic orchestration of its core six members.
Peaks and troughs wrap the set in rampant and respite; juxtaposing speeds and thrashes serve as rip-roaring main courses (‘The Pretender’/ ‘Rope’/ ‘Run’) while the softer dynamic and heart-tug of ‘Walk’ and ‘My Hero’ act as stratospheric gratification.
The sing-along aspect of the Foos isn’t to be scoffed at either; clear highlights in this area are well-placed in ‘Learn To Fly,’ ‘These Days’ and ‘Best of You.’ A trilogy of powerful evocations that speak of hope, refuge and tribulation via epic, life-affirming guitar rock.
The encore continues to prove why Foo Fighters are the meteoric stalwart rockers they are; during a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Everlong,’ the crowd blast back in unison with an enormity of extended voice and delighted spirit. It’s an outstanding reception; a cognizant standing ovation to the state of live music today.
Foo Fighters wrap up their three-date UK run with shows in London this weekend (22nd June & 23rd June).
Photo Credit: Niall Lea
For more information on Foo Fighters, visit their Website.