“This is the most fun we’ve had on stage in a long f*cking time!”
According to setlist.fm, a definitive source of gig information for live music nerds, this current tour has propelled Australia into the third most played country in the world for the Foo Fighters with an impressive 86 performances (yes, it includes Rove Live). That’s a pretty impressive stat for a country that is ostensibly on the opposite side of the world to the eponymous Seattle-formed band and places us just above Canada but a long way behind the UK and their homeland.
The live love affair with the Dave Grohl-fronted rock band goes right back to their very first Australian show - also in Melbourne - at the iconic Summersault Festival on the 29th of December 1995. Third billed underneath The Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth, the day also featured Beck, Pavement, Bodyjar and a couple of barely recognisable local bands. (Anyone remember Bindi?) The fresh-faced Dave Grohl took the debut album for a spin, and Australians have been hooked for the next 28 years.
That debut Australian show was 630 days after the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The show in Melbourne on the 6th of December, 2023, was 621 days since Taylor Hawkins’s death. Both the sadness of each event and the fact that here, all those days later, the band are playing to a packed AAMI Park are significant because not only has Grohl and rhythm guitarist Pat Smear lost a beloved bandmate twice, but they’ve pushed through it, persisted and triumphed over sadness and loss. The album name and mantra, But Here We Are, is all the more poignant.
How does Dave Grohl and his band keep the energy up every show? What is it that ignites and keeps the fire burning in the belly of him and his band to perform, travel and play to such a level? How the hell does Grohl’s voice hold up night after night? And please tell us how he manages to keep that chewing gum in his mouth the whole gig?
These are all questions that you could probably answer by reading his book, but it's not until you experience a Fooeys gig that you understand why they, just like the great rock bands before them, are still going.
They've. Got. IT.
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That uncanny and rare knack of great songs, perfect banter and likeability. You can't dislike them, even if you think they're middle of the road or past it; you're not going to be banging on about that to your friend. Instead, you'll be singing along to My Hero in your lounge room during halftime of your favourite sport or feeling tingles when Everlong gets a spin on your morning commute.
So it is that all walks of life attend their shows: old, young, rock lovers, pop lovers, partners who just want to swoon over them and people who have a spare Wednesday night in Melbourne.
Whether it's your 12th time seeing them or your first (of which it was later revealed there were plenty), the anticipation of Grohl taking to the stage is palpable, and he doesn't do anything quietly; he bolts onto the stage first and later would be the last to leave. Nearly three hours of non-stop stage presence. That’s no mean feat.
For those who have seen the Foos, there’s that usual schtick. Grohl declaring it’ll be a “long night”, guitarist Chris Shiflett’s laconic style and relaxed demeanour whilst ripping out trademark Fooeys riffs, Pat Smear’s perpetual grin and bassist Nate Mendel being the backbone without fault or barely any screen time.
There’s a new factor, and it’s an important one. Josh Freese enters the Foos family with a huge resume and a style that - on paper - seems that it might make the rhythm section a bit more workmanlike, having not been a part of the creation of decades of material with the group. Any doubts are unwarranted. His performance on the night not only highlights just how damn good he is at his craft, but he brings his own creative flair and shares the fun-loving grin that his predecessor did when jamming hard with the rest of the group. His t-shirt, “Not here to fuck spiders”, was also a titillating treat.
“This is the most fun we’ve had on stage in a long fucking time!” declares Grohl about halfway through the show. And it does feel fun. The first half of the set is an absolute cracker and for the old-school attendees, hearing Breakout and Generator was a voice-screaming highlight, but what makes the show great is the inclusion of the songs from their latest album.
Rescued and Under You are as classic a Fooeys song as you can get, but the start of their encore treated the crowd to the full 10 minutes of The Teacher, which has to go down as one of the most epic tracks the band have ever written. Indulgent? Possibly, but indulgence is simply part of what makes the band so enjoyable to watch.
On this, their 13th tour of the country (Dave worked it out since the last show), the band are on the cusp of entering a very exclusive group of bands. They’re two years shy of the ‘30 club’ having started in 2005 as a distinctly ‘ungrunge’ retort to the music of the day.
That's 13 trips to a country with a proud history of rock. The small slice of AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was a cute addition, as were the other small vignettes of what a Fooeys jam would be like. Cover album time, guys?
The band seem very much at home in our country, and we'll happily have them back any time because, as Mr. Grohl will confirm, “... we don't say goodbye, we just say this.., before the opening strains of Everlong play and those tingles overwhelm us again.
We'll wait for you, Foo Fighters and know you won't stop when we say when.