Review Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
Sometimes a music concert is much more than what the label reads. Occasionally one comes along that has a back story that elevates the anticipation to another level. Such is the case with the 2023 Australian tour by Foo Fighters (their 13th tour here), one of the best exponents of stadium rock on the planet. It’s a band very close to the hearts of fans downunder and many will forever remember their legendary gig in Geelong in March 2022, one of the final gigs featuring drummer Taylor Hawkins.
It’s only been 18 months since we lost the beating heart and soul of the band in horrible circumstances. The Foo Fighters’ activity came to a sudden halt and it was not known for a while whether they’d ever pick up the pieces and tour again. Thankfully they’ve decided that show must go on. Acclaimed drummer Josh Freese (Devo, Nine Inch Nails, Perfect Circle) was brought in to sit kit and help get the train back on track and looky here, it’s night two at Melbourne’s AAMI Park and tens of thousands of fans have turned out again to participate in this communal hug.
The band had clearly come to conquer, opening with a biggie, All My Life and tackling the tune with every ounce of aggression and energy that they could muster. As Dave Grohl tells us soon after, it’s going to be a long night. No Son of Mine morphs into Sabbath’s Paranoid and AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds as Grohl tests our commitment to rock out with him tonight. A no-filler set list encompassing 28 years of quality rock was on offer and an equally wide-ranging audience was eager to feast on the menu. Encouraged by Grohl to “ Just let it out”, I’m not sure I’ve heard a Melbourne audience sing so free of inhibition as they did to classics such as The Pretender, Times Like These and Generator.
As much as the tour was a dedication to Hawkins, it was also a warm welcome to Freese, who has already been bestowed with his own chant by the Australian crowds, much to Dave’s bemusement. “Oh god, are we now going to have to hear that the rest of our lives!” However, praise for Josh Freese is well deserved, he utilises every part of his body in his playing, working the double kick like a demon. He’s the musical equivalent of a champion prize fighter. Although Grohl addresses the Taylor situation directly later in the night, I couldn’t help but feel that the most unintentionally poignant moment of the night came with My Hero. As the entire audience sang the words “There goes my hero, Watch him as he goes”, Freese had left briefly to find a new drink bottle, leaving the drum seat alone for a moment with just a wisp of stage lighting highlighting the kit’s emptiness.
In another of Grohl’s many conversations with the crowd he tells us, he wakes up every day and lives every waking hour for the gig that night and just 15 minutes before stage time he thinks, “Let’s go out and clobber these mother fuckers tonight” and that’s exactly what this band are doing on this beautiful Melbourne night.
Chris Shiflett, direct from his sold out solo show the previous night at The Workers Club (See our review HERE) comes to the fore to offload an impressive guitar solo in a bracket featuring band member introductions. Keyboard player Rami Jaffee gives us the ’trippy’ psychedelia on Hammond organ, Nate Mendel on bass and Pat Smear on guitar punk it up with Blitzkrieg Bop and Josh Freese gives his all on his old band’s hit Whip It, who ironically are playing this town at this very moment over at the Palais Theatre (See that review HERE).
Aurora brings on the real the Taylor Hawkins tribute as Grohl tells us it was Taylor’s favourite Foo Fighters song. Aurora is actually a street in Seattle, close to where Dave lived while he was still in the band Nirvana.
With Best Of You, Grohl encourages us to sing as loud as we possibly can. No issues there for this crowd of devotees. The band leave the stage and for the audience, take a nervously long time to reappear, to the point that part of the anxious crowd begin to boo fearing the show’s over. Of course that isn’t the case, more likely they needed to briefly catch their breath and reset for the impending ten minute prog rock opus that is The Teacher, the first offering from their But Here We Are Album released earlier this year and their first studio album since the death of Taylor. It’s not only the sound of a band in mourning but also a defiant act of rebirth and musical development.
It had been a long, emotional two and a half hour show full of hits and memories, as they say in FM radio land, the medium that still constantly broadcasts the band to the world. The Foo Fighters had given their all and the crowd gave back as much and more. It could only end with a euphoric, unforgettable version of Everlong. The classic rock anthem reverberates through each and every one of us as we saunter out into the night. Until next time Fooeys.