Foo Fighters

IZOD Center, NJ

by Laru S. (September 26, 2011)

Foo Fighters brought their "Wasting Light" tour to a nearly sold-out IZOD Center last night, ending the first leg of the North American tour with an extended set and a massive amount of energy spent. The next time there is a power outage in my town, I'm plugging into the Foo Fighters all-night generator.

They were supported by (of all things) a mariachi band and Rise Against. I missed the mariachi band while being re-directed in IZOD's parking area about a zillion times. You'd think they'd have their act together as the building's been around for 30 years, but it's only gotten worse. But I digress. Rise Against delivered a solid performance. Playing to a half-filled arena whose patrons are anxiously awaiting Foo Fighters is a tough gig, but Rise Against's alternative/punk style worked well with Foo Nation, and they were a fine complement to the headliners.

The arena was packed and ready to party as the houselights went out and Foo Fighters hit the stage, opening the show with the first two tracks off their "Wasting Light" album, "Bridge Burning" and "Rope". The atmosphere in the crowd was electric as the band moved on to their first series of greatest hits with "The Pretender", "My Hero" and "Learn to Fly". Singer/Guitarist Dave Grohl then addressed the audience and called this the biggest show on the tour thus far, even joking that every other show they've ever played was just practice for this gig. Playing to the crowd? Sure. But it definitely felt sincere. He went on to say that being this was the last night of the tour (this leg), they were ready to play all night. Most headline acts top out at 2 hours, but Foo Fighters were going at least 2 1/2 hours, maybe even 2 hours & 45 minutes, the frontman promised. I've heard plenty of bands make similar promises and fail to keep them. Dave Grohl kept his
word though, going the full 2:45 he pledged.

The first highlight of the evening occurred during "Stacked Actors". The enormous stage was not enough to contain Dave Grohl. There were steps at front-center stage, leading down to the arena floor, where a huge runway split the crowd and led to a small mini-stage at the center of the floor. Dave would sprint down to the mini-stage mid-song, and deliver the rest of the tune from that point. The song concluded with a massive guitar lick tradeoff between Grohl and lead guitarist Chris Shiflett. As Grohl was engaging in the duel, the mini-stage started to rise, and eventually stretched about 50 feet from the arena floor. Grohl was now front and center of the arena, seemingly close enough for people up in the nose-bleed sections to reach out and touch. Who'd have thought that a musician who started his career as a drummer would one day be a rock God? Dreams do come true people, if you work hard enough. Dave Grohl is proof.

Speaking of his early career, this week marked the 20th anniversary of the release of "Nevermind", the ground-breaking album by Nirvana which set off the grunge era of rock & roll. Grohl, of course, was the drummer of Nirvana, and tonight he was joined onstage by his former band-mate Krist Novoselic. But Novoselic was not playing his customary role as bassist, a job so meritously handled in Foo Fighters by Nate Mendel. Instead, Novoselic accompanied the band on accordian for a new song "These Days", and was introduced by Grohl as "the Eddie Van Halen of accordian players". The crowd response was deafening and it was easy to see that Novoselic was both touched and humbled by it.

This album and tour marked the full-time return of rhythm guitarist Pat Smear, and the three guitar attack works very well for the band. Foo Fighters played a very balanced set of old and new material, and threw in a couple of cover songs as well. Drummer Taylor Hawkins, who plays at such a frenetic pace that viewers get exhausted just watching him, sang lead on 2 songs, the first of which was "Hard Day in the Sun", which is the only song Foo Fighters have released without Grohl on lead vocals. But Taylor truly shined while taking the lead on a dazzling cover of Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh?", performed brilliantly by the band including the classic laser effects that Floyd is famous for in their shows. The band followed that up with their final song of the set, "All My Life", and, in truth, the band had already satisfied the crowd and could have easily ended the night after 2 hours. But so much more was still to come.

As the band took the customary few minutes backstage before returning, cameras focused on Grohl, who put up 2 fingers to indicate to the crowd that they would return to play 2 more songs if they responded well. Dave cupped his ear asking for response and he received it from the amped-up IZOD Center masses. He then teased with 3 fingers drawing even louder cheers. Taylor Hawkins then jumped in and egged the crowd on with offers of 4, 5, and even 6 encores, to Dave's shock and mock-horror. Dave eventually caved and agreed on 6. He would return to the mini-stage alone though.

The next couple of songs were delivered by just Grohl. He played "Long Road to Ruin" and "Best of You", accompanied by his own acoustic guitar and about 20,000 backup singers. Dave thanked the audience with his thoroughly entertaining anecdotes and truly appreciated every person's ("the peoples" as Dave called us) love for the band. He then went into "Times Like These", playing the first half of the song on acoustic before the rest of the band returned to the main stage and Dave joined them to finish the tune. This surely must have been the end of the show, right? Wrong.

They broke into a newer song, "Dear Rosemary", which sounded good, but it was disappointing that they weren't joined by alternative rock legend Bob Mould, who played guitar and sang co-lead on the studio version of this tune. Hawkins admirably covered Mould's vocal parts but it just wasn't the same. The band would segue the song into a really cool cover of Tom Petty's "Break Down". I don't think even Petty himself could have done a better job with this one. The band then played "Skin and Bones" with a slightly different arrangement, heavily featuring the organ and accordian skills of keyboardist Rami Jaffee. The tune had a very Doors-like quality to it.

By count this was now 6 encores, but the evening was not quite complete. Fittingly this long night of energy and love was concluded by the band's breakthrough hit from the mid-90's, "Everlong". This reviewer had always thought of Foo Fighters as an extension to the legendary Nirvana, but tonight Foo Fighters stepped out of that enormous shadow and proved that they are now among the upper class of all-time alternative/grunge rock bands including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M. The band will be back in the area with shows at Madison Square Garden and Prudential Center in November. Don't miss the chance to see one or both of these shows. I know I won't.

SETLIST:
Bridge Burning
Rope
The Pretender
My Hero
Learn to Fly
White Limo
Arlandria
Breakout
Cold Day in the Sun (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocal)
Stacked Actors
Walk
Monkey Wrench
Let It Die
These Days (Krist Novoselic on accordian)
I Should Have Known
This Is A Call
In the Flesh? (Pink Floyd cover, Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)
All My Life

ENCORES:
Long Road to Ruin (Acoustic)
Best of You (Acoustic)
Times Like These (Acoustic intro)
Dear Rosemary
Break Down (Tom Petty cover)
Skin and Bones
Everlong

Affiliation with KNEW GEN None

Contact Laru S. at larus@knewgeneration.com