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RFK Stadium is lit up, glowing like the sun at night. Thousands of people were packed in the football stadium like oysters in a can. They have been waiting all day, waiting through many different blues, rock, and hip hop acts, waiting through huge lines and downpours of rain, just so they could see one of the biggest acts in stadium rock.
As Dave Grohl’s voice shouts, “Hey! Happy Fourth of July!” the crowd erupts into immediate applause. As the band launches into “Everlong,” the curtain falls to reveal Dave Grohl sitting, with his leg in a cast and propped up, on a large rolling throne with a big circular Foo Fighters logo on the back of it, surrounded by a circle of lights in a fashion similar to Pink Floyd’s circle screen from their touring years.
This describes the environment at the Foo Fighters’ 20th Anniversary Blowout on July 4, 2015. The crowd, sweaty and tired from the long day before then, was gathered in Washington, DC not only to celebrate their independence, but to celebrate the release of the Foo Fighters’ self-titled debut album in 1995, twenty years ago. And they called in an eclectic set of performers to open up the show, too: modern acts like RDGLDGRN, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and Gary Clark, Jr.; older acts like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Heart, and blues legend Buddy Guy; rapper LL Cool J; and DC band Trouble Funk.
The opening performances in the show ranged from okay to really good. There was no long wait in between most of the acts: they had a turning stage so one act could set up while the other one was finishing their set. I admittedly don’t know a lot of music from many of the other acts like Trombone Shorty, and had only found out a few days before that RDGLDGRN were showing up.
LL Cool J seemed a little unfitting in comparison: you get all these rock, funk and blues acts, and then you get LL Cool J on stage rapping. The stage setup was different too. While the other bands and artists had a very basic setup, with just them and their instruments, LL Cool J had a full setup with a multi-level stage and stairs and a screen and all that. The sound mixing on his set was also terrible: the bass was boosted incredibly loud and rattled the floorboards of the stadium seating. Apart from that, he did a good performance, I guess, and he is related in that he shares the same birthday as Dave Grohl, but it still felt out of place. It’s like having Bryan Adams go on stage to cover Pink Floyd.*
My favorite opening band by far was Heart. Many rock singers, especially the women, lose their vocal range as they get older. Ann Wilson is not one of those; she can still belt out “Barracuda” and win over my heart with her voice at a good 65 years old. And Nancy Wilson is still just as good on guitar and backing vocals, playing the opening to “Crazy on You” incredibly well. I was a little surprised, however, that they didn’t ever do “Magic Man.” I’m guessing it had to be cut from the set due to time constraints.
Speaking of which, the biggest downside to the show was definitely the weather. Right after Joan Jett’s fantastic set, the announcer came onstage and told the audience that there was a severe lightning warning. Everybody had to be moved out of the grassy area and the speakers were taken down, even though I swear I never saw a single lightning flash or heard any thunder. There was plenty of rain, though, so after about 40 minutes, when the crowd ran back in, there were nice big puddles for them to splash in! But I suspect that because of this, each act had to pull one or two songs from their setlists, and the planned motorcycle rally also never happened, unless it was at the beginning and I missed it (I arrived a little late).
Now when I first heard about the opening lineup, I was a little skeptical. Dave Grohl has always done this thing where he tries to associate himself with the big name rock stars by playing shows with Queen, featuring guest artists like Joe Walsh and Rick Nielsen on the Foos’ album Sonic Highways, and of course directing the documentary film Sound City, where he got to interview everyone from Stevie Nicks to Trent Reznor and even jammed out with Paul McCartney. The big question is, though, does the former Nirvana drummer have the musical chops to back this up? The short answer: yes.
Of course, I was also afraid that the show wouldn’t happen due to Dave breaking his leg last month, and during the show this was brought up.
He told a story of how he was in the hospital, zoned out on drugs, when he came up with the idea of making a big Foo Fighters throne for him to sit on so he could do the shows, and proclaimed to the audience that “I’m not cancelling this show for nothing!”
One thing that’s great about Dave is that he likes to talk to the audience, and this was apparent at this show. He told stories about songs, got the audience pumped up, and even brought his mother, Virginia, on stage (right before the song “For All the Cows”).
But don’t assume it’s the Dave Grohl show, because his bandmates also got plenty of attention. Around eight songs in, Dave introduced each of them, and each one did an impromptu rendition of a song of their choice: Lead guitarist Chris Shiflett played the intro to Van Halen’s “I’m the One,” bassist Nate Mendel played the first verse of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” rhythm guitarist Pat Smear showed off his talents on the intro of Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and drummer/background vocalist Taylor Hawkins did a vocal improvisation in the style of Freddie Mercury, followed by him singing lead on “Cold Day in the Sun.”
I remember that Dave said he wanted a drummer who “sings like Freddie Mercury and looks like a surfer.” Incidentally, this was the second time I had heard “Another One Bites the Dust” that night, as LL Cool J sampled it during his set.
The Foos’ show was surprisingly devoid of songs from their newest album, Sonic Highways, and instead focused more on their older songs from their debut album. The only three songs from their newest album were “Something From Nothing,” “Congregation,” and “Outside.” I was surprised they didn’t do “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness”; after all, Gary Clark, Jr. had played earlier and they could easily pull him back on stage to join them on that song.
They played their popular songs, of course, like “Everlong,” “The Pretender,” “Monkey Wrench,” “Walk,” “These Days” and “Learn to Fly.” They also performed a cover of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, with Taylor singing Freddie Mercury’s parts and Dave singing… well, Dave’s.
One highlight of the show is when Dave got out of his throne, walking on crutches, to the front of the stage. With Chris and Pat on guitars, Dave sang an emotional, acoustic rendition of “My Hero” and “Times Like These.”
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and this show did just that. By the time Dave launched into “Best of You,” the entire crowd knew that it was over, but they also knew every word and sung along with Grohl.
And during the middle, as the crowd repeatedly sung the “Whoa-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh” part of the song, Dave launched into a heartfelt, intense, three-and-a-half minute guitar solo. This came as quite the surprise to me, as I didn’t know that Dave could play guitar solos that well! With that in mind, I really need to improve my own soloing skills. I’m jealous!
The show finished off with a big fireworks display, as Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played in the background and Dave said goodnight to the audience.
So all in all, was this one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to? Well, no, because I think calling it a concert is too limiting a term. No, I consider it more of an experience, a celebration. And considering it that, yeah, it was one of the greatest ones I’ve ever been to. Even with Dave’s broken leg, he managed to put on a spectacular, albeit very tiring by the end, night. And I think that, after having seen this, Dave should no longer have his past with Nirvana cloud up people’s opinions about him, because he’s definitely achieved that level of rock star where he can just move on and let go.
*Yes, I know Bryan Adams covered Pink Floyd. It was simply an analogy.
Welcome to TheHappySpaceman Productions on deviantART, your home for music videos, comics and reviews! ------------- Name: Hunter Daniel "Dan" Bruton Age: Manly Religion: Agnostic Current Residence: Space Favorite genre of music: Rock Favorite style of art: Abstract, because that's all I'm good at drawing. Operating System: Windows 7 Motto: NO AUTO-TUNE! ------------- To-Do List Art trade with EchelonErased featuring Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire from Teen Titans
= Haven't started yet. = Started with the lineart. = Finished with the lineart. = Started with the coloring. = Finished with the coloring, ready to upload.
Status on requests: Closed Status on art trades: Open Status on point commissions: Open
Favorite visual artistDon't knowFavorite moviesCasablanca, Citizen Kane, Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, anything by Mel Brooks, and the rest won't fit.Favorite TV showsToo many to list. O_oFavorite bands / musical artistsQueenFavorite booksAnything by Carl Hiassen, MAD magazine, A Briefer History of Time, millions others.Favorite writersCarl HiassenFavorite gamesI don't game. :oFavorite gaming platformDidn't you read what I said above?! :xOther InterestsLEGOs, superheroes, aliens and peanut butter.
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