"Foo Fighters have thrown down the gauntlet to every other international band looking to tour Australia and have set the bar about as high as it can go."
After two years of despair, the very suggestion that any international band, let alone arguably the world’s biggest rock band, would once again hit our shores seemed like a fever dream. Alas by some miracle, we find ourselves making the long journey out to GMHBA Stadium to watch Foo Fighters. There is a surreal atmosphere as we file into the enormous stadium, squinting under the bright lights. The familiar smell of fried food fills the air as punters dart toward the portaloos. A steady drizzle rains down as David Bowie’s Changes booms through the speakers; “turn and face the strange” he sings. Indeed.
With the usual gap between show announcement and actual show being a good six months or more, to have almost instant gratification is unheard of at the very best of times, not to mention during the tail end of a pandemic. And yet, here we stand, poncho in hand, waiting in the agonisingly slow beer line a little over two weeks later. The beer line is so slow that we end up making new friends and joining them at their carefully chosen spot to the front right of the stage.
The house lights cut and the roar - that beautiful, dearly missed roar - of tens of thousands of fans heralds the entrance of Australia’s honorary sons, Foo Fighters. Singer Dave Grohl can hardly hide his delight as he beams at the crowd, opening with a stirring rendition of Times Like These. It’s impossible not to feel a little choked up, as the lyrics take on a whole new meaning after the pain and the grief of the last two years. Lest we succumb to melancholy, the band immediately switches gear with The Pretender, an absolute corker of a tune. “It’s been a long time, do you miss rock’n’roll? Do you love rock’n’roll?” crows Grohl, settling into his place as our demonic puppet master for the evening and us, the puppets, can but helplessly comply to every yank of our strings.
The Sky Is A Neighbourhood is a bluesy, textured change of pace, giving the audience a little space to breathe, while Breakout is a throat shredding auditory assault. My Hero is a tear jerker, as expected, and a place for the entire band to shine. Chris Shiflett’s guitar work is formidable, and at the crescendo of the tune Taylor Hawkins wallops the skins with such power it’s hard not to feel sorry for them.
As Medicine At Midnight begins, the rain starts to really pour and we are given a Shawshank-esque drenching, one that even the most able poncho is powerless to stop. And yet, it doesn’t even register as an annoyance, if anything it seems to add to the experience. An incredibly fun cover of the Bee Gee’s You Should Be Dancing has punters doing just that, with several impressive Saturday Night Fever moves spotted in the crowd. Grohl and Hawkins play musical chairs, with the singer settling in behind the kit and giving the drums a brutal pounding of their own while Hawkins confidently takes over vocal duties for Queen’s Somebody To Love.
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As Grohl introduces the band, usually a much longer affair than tonight, he promises that each member will perform a ten-minute solo when they return in November. A bomb has been dropped and the crowd loses it. “Every day I been looking at the news… Three weeks ago, it said Australia is opening its borders. I said, ‘Holy shit, it’s about fucking time.’ I said, ‘Hey, we’re fucking going, we gotta be the first ones down there,’” explains Grohl, admitting his manager’s response was, “Whatever Dave”.
After a set so enthusiastic, so unbelievably tight, so goddamned energetic, it’s hard to imagine the Foos have anything left in the tank. This is proven not to be the case as they go on to shred All My Life, This Is A Call, Best Of You, and Monkey Wrench back to back in a blistering wander through their back catalogue. Deliciously, they throw in the incredibly sweet yet quite unexpected addition of Big Me (this writer’s personal favourite) amongst the sweaty chaos.
As the band closes with evergreen crowd favourite Everlong in tribute to the great Michael Gudinski, fireworks pop overhead and once again that beloved roar from the crowd rings out.
Foo Fighters have thrown down the gauntlet to every other international band looking to tour Australia and have set the bar about as high as it can go. The Foos are one of the best live bands in the world right now, consistently brilliant not just because of their music, but because of their love for the fans, for each other and for what they do. Their setlists and stage presence are second to none, and yet, this gig wasn’t just fantastic because of them.
What made tonight incredible was the people. After years away from live music one could be forgiven for expecting some bad behaviour and yet there was not one dickhead in sight. We air drummed together, we guarded our beer village so no-one would step on our haul while we boogied, we stood with our arms around each other’s shoulders and sang. It’s the simplest of human interactions, and maybe even one that wouldn’t have happened pre-pandemic, but tonight it’s deep and it’s real. We have all been deprived of experiences like this for so long, and we stand tonight united in joy, and in hope, and in our love for music.
Rock’n’roll is back, and so is Victoria.