Editor’s Note: Featured Foo Fighters image by Scott Murry for Vanyaland; click here for his full gallery.
With the hometown nine out of town to begin the second half of their bang-up season, it was Foo Fighters tasked with keeping the the sizzle alive in “America’s most beloved ballpark.” On Saturday night (July 21), Dave Grohl and the band had it covered.
Selling out Boston’s holy baseball cathedral for two shows this past weekend, Foo Fighters served up the high heat, bringing with them a little bit of the old school, a taste of the new school, and a bonafide hit parade that, at this point, would have even Mookie Betts conceding victory.
Rock and roll’s quintessential nice guy was in top form, on both legs (unlike their last appearance at Fenway). And with a little help from some friends on the first night, Boston’s The Monsieurs and England’s The Struts, the Foos had all the right stuff to, with all baseball cliches aside, toss a perfect game.
Batting leadoff was homegrown garage punk hellraisers The Monsieurs. Adorned in a black cape, frontman Andy MacBain basked in the welcome from his hometown crowd, as he helped drummer Erin King and guitarist Hilken Mancini flex the PA system with some of the loudest, grittiest hometown garage punk power Fenway has ever seen. Screaming his way through their 40-minute set, MacBain left it all out on the stage for the crowd. Unfortunately, more than half of those in attendance were still trying to find their seats by the time the local flavor of the night tore into a cover of The Troggs’ classic “Wild Thing” to end their set. But their time on stage was well-received.
As the opener, they did their job masterfully, getting the crowd ready for what was right around the corner, about to blow their freaking minds. In the clean-up spot, The Struts were in command of the stage from the moment the English quartet appeared, with frontman Luke Spiller’s fists raised in the air before he proceeded to showcase just what an opening band is supposed to do when you’re playing a show in a legit national landmark.
While the classic rock feel from a modern rock band was undeniably impressive, arguably the most prominent ingredient in The Struts’ electrifying stage show was their unadulterated desire to get the crowd involved — and before they even reached the halfway point of their eight-song set, they had evidently accomplished their goal.
Nearly every song became a stadium-wide chant once the crowd became familiar with the lyrics, and the smiles that permeated the bandmates faces were a clear indicator that they had the growing crowd in the palm of their hand. Along with guitarist Addo Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies, Spiller kept the energy as high as the volume, as he pranced, jogged and strutted (heh) his way around the stage with the confidence of Freddie Mercury and the charm of Mick Jagger, literally shimmering as the setting sun beamed off his sequin jacket.
Towards the end of their time on stage, Spiller admitted to the crowd that he wanted to “make rock and roll fun again,” and as the first notes of the band’s most well-known tune, “Could Have Been Me,” rang out from Slack’s Les Paul, it became clear that that vision had become reality, at least for the last 45 minutes. Cut out the main event, and The Struts would be the top dog on the bill, showing just how easily they may be able to headline the ballpark themselves one day. One can only hope, at least.
As the sun set over the Green Monster, the anticipation of a Foo Fighters entrance mounted to the point where every faint movement on the stage from techs and runners garnered at least a little bit of premature applause, but once the time came for the band to take the stage, the place shook from third base to Pesky’s pole, as Grohl made his entrance ahead of his bandmates by doing something he wasn’t able to do last time he was in the city — he was walking.
More accurately, he was running like he was being chased.
With a full sprint in motion, Grohl hastily made his way onto the long catwalk that separated the main stage from a b-stage, as he manically thrashed his signature blue Gibson DG-335. All the while, giving his bright red Vans quite a workout as he made his way back to the microphone that stood between guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear.
Before starting in on the drugdey opening riff of “All My Life” to kick of what would become a near-three-hour set, Grohl’s glass-shattering trio of screams indicated that his voice was, in fact, not suffering and the bearded rock icon offered a little reassurance to the Fenway crowd, as well. With it being the first time he’s ever been able to run around while at Fenway, Grohl made it clear to fans that he was ready to bring the high cheese the only way Dave Grohl knows how.
“It’s good to be back, motherfuckers! It’s good to be back! I’m not sitting down tonight. I’m here to rock my ass off!”
And holy hell, did he ever.
Grohl led the charge, with his trusty guitarists Shiflett and Smear, bassist Nate Mendel (who missed Thursday’s show in Pittsburgh, but flew to Boston after his wife gave birth to twin girls), and the man who Grohl jokingly referred to as “the love of his life,” drummer Taylor Hawkins, helping him bring to life a 24-song setlist that journeyed through nearly the entirety of the band’s discography, with the exception of Sonic Highways.
There was a little bit of everything for everyone, and everyone gave a little bit of everything back, as the sell-out crowd participated in a continuous sing-along, which is an even more impressive feat when you factor in that the Foos played five new songs off of their most recent studio effort, Concrete and Gold. While a few songs were exaggeratedly stretched with impromptu jam sessions, guitar solos, and even a few thunderous drum solos radiating out of Hawkins’ drum set (complete with a Chris Cornell bass drum head), the crowd stayed with the band all the way through, and the first ten songs, which included “Learn To Fly,” “My Hero,” and their newest hit “The Sky Is A Neighborhood,” seemed to go by in a flash.
To break up a smidgen of the momentum of the night, and to give Grohl’s voice a bit of a rest, Shiflett took the lead on a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels,” which displayed the lead ax-man’s vocal chops as well put a brighter spotlight on his shredding skills.
After Hawkins and Mendel whipped out a quick rendition of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” and Grohl returned to action engulfed in a trippy light show with “La Dee Da,” the band introduced their not-so-secret weapon in keyboardist Rami Jaffee who, within three seconds of playing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” had hypnotically brought every cell phone flashlight to full shine, and turned Fenway Park into its own little star-drenched galaxy. Always the one to keep things interesting, Grohl mixed Lennon’s iconic riff with the lyrics to Van Halen’s “Jump” before rolling into a blistering cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” starting a new stretch of tunes that would soon make throats hoarse.
After coaxing Hawkins, who donned swim trunks for the evening, out from behind his drum set for a duet of “Under Pressure” that brought Luke Spiller back out onstage, Grohl retreated to his natural habitat behind the kit to give Hawkins his moment of frontman glory, and while it didn’t look right, it was evidence that the Foo Fighters are not only co-workers, but great friends who just want to play music together, as well.
Well beyond the halfway point, and bleeding into the final stretch of the night, this group of equal parts surfer dad and rock star continued to bring the power that generated crushing hits like “Monkey Wrench” and “Breakout” all those years ago and continued to do so on Saturday night, and brought the first part of the set to a rousing end with an extended version of “Best Of You,” but not before Grohl could make the show a bit of a family affair.
Enlisting his daughter, Violet, on backing vocals for “Dirty Water” (No, not that one), the crowd swelled with applause as father and daughter gripped them, along with the other backup singers that accompanied the 12-year old.
After a six-minute breather, for both the band and the crowd, Grohl and the boys returned for a four-song encore that presented, one last time for the night, all the elements that made the show so special for that last two and a half hours: Gushing nostalgia, unbridled energy, and an absolutely insane display of lights and visuals.
Easing into the final stretch with “Big Me,” the band used the extra down time to muster up the “umph” that helped them eviscerate “Times Like These” and “This is a Call” before ending with yet another extended version of one of their biggest hits, “Everlong.”
There were so many moving parts that made this past Saturday night at Fenway Park so special, that it really is nearly impossible to account for all of them. All that’s obvious, and all that matters really, is that when given the freedom to run and walk, and melt our freaking faces with gut-busting rock and roll, Dave Grohl and his loyal battery mates hit a home run at Fenway Park this weekend.
Follow Jason Greenough on Twitter @DadBodVanilla.