The Foo Fighters Send 150 Lucky Fans to Heaven: Record Store Day Concert Review
Since the release of the Sonic Highways album and DVD, Foo Fighters have been pulling off a series of renegade small club shows all around the country. However, it's safe to say the band's Record Store Day 2015 concert in Niles, Ohio, in front of 150 or so lucky fans is probably the most unique gig they've played in a very long time.
The show took place in a fluorescent-lit, white-walled, empty storefront in a nondescript strip mall, located several doors down from indie store the Record Connection – a packed-to-the-gills shop with an impressive array of autographed Rolling Stones memorabilia as decoration. In keeping with the Record Store Day theme, the room where the band actually set up had vinyl records hanging from the ceiling with string, as well as vintage concert flyers, a couple platinum records and Foo Fighters posters tacked onto the walls.
The stage itself, which was crammed full of the Foos' gear and abutted by an impressive stack of amps, was elevated only a few inches, meaning fans in front were pretty much on the level with the band. Naturally, the audience, many of whom had waited in line overnight for a chance to get into the show, buzzed with energy and excitement. (A pre-show playlist including songs from Rush helped too, of course.)
With a simple "Good morning!," frontman Dave Grohl strode onto the tiny stage with the rest of the Foo Fighters precisely at the stroke of noon and laid out the premise of the gig: "We're gonna play a bunch of songs as fast as we can." Appropriately, the band immediately launched into a scorched-earth version of "White Limo.' The Motorhead-esque song was even more ferocious in the small space, especially because the group held nothing back, between Grohl's hawk-like screeches and Taylor Hawkins' frenzied drumming.
From there, Foo Fighters ripped through a set tailored to the ecstatic fans shouting along, pumping their fists and snagging iPhone pics. There was no "Learn To Fly," "Times Like These" or "Best Of You," but there was a raucous version of the Wasting Light album track "Arlandria," what Grohl termed an "old school" version of "Big Me" – in other words, it was jangly and concise – and featured a chugging version of "My Hero" that ended with a punk rave-up.
The band also performed several Sonic Highways songs, which translated well live; "Congregation" included Grohl yelling "No false hope! No false hope!" as the song churned to an end, while the poignant "Outside" fomented plenty of headbanging. At one point early on in the set, Grohl said, "Let's pretend this is a stadium show!" and encouraged the crowd to yell "Hey!" and pump their fists in unison. It wasn't much of a stretch: Both the band and the audience exhibited delirious intensity that belied the time of day and cozy venue.
In honor of the band's Record Store Day release – a 10-inch vinyl LP called Songs From the Laundry Room – Foo Fighters also busted out several rarities, including the first album's "Alone + Easy Target" (a bashing, grungy pop song that had more than a passing resemblance to Grohl's former band Nirvana) and a cover of Kim Wilde's '80s new wave hit "Kids In America," which is also on Laundry Room.
To preface this tune, Grohl told a story that he only rediscovered the tapes containing the LP's songs last year, after originally recording them more than two decades ago at his friend Barrett Jones's studio. (He said he actually drummed on Jones's stuff as well, and while it wasn't very good – "Sorry, Barrett" – he had a very good reason for doing so: "I would do it for pot.") The band ended up working up "Kids In America" recently, and their take was very credible, with Hawkins's "whoa-oh!" backing vocals particularly adding zaniness.
How this show came about was somewhat fortuitous, as Grohl – who's the 2015 Record Store Day ambassador and a native of very-nearby Warren, Ohio – mentioned from the stage. Turns out, the band was supposed to play this show in St. Louis (and, he says, even considered doing the show there and flying to Cleveland right after, since Joan Jett's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction later tonight in the city meant that Grohl's presence was required). However, Grohl then said someone then told him, "You should play in the town where you were born!"
Ever the proud Ohioan, he certainly mentioned that fact a few times, at one point riffing offhand that "grandma's house is just down the road" and, in an incredible coincidence, noting his uncle had a shoe store job at one point in the same strip of stores. Dave Grohl Alley even got a shout-out – Grohl and keyboardist Rami Jaffee biked to the show themselves from Cleveland, and passed by the infamous landmark on the way to the store.
The casual vibe naturally extended to the show itself – Grohl jokingly gave the side-eye to fans snapping photos and made exaggerated guitar face for their benefit. However, Foo Fighters are the rare arena/stadium band that also seem totally natural in a club or small venue; they're they're such a locked-in live entity, they've never lost the ability to be spontaneous or improvise.
That was evident with an epic, prolonged version of "The Pretender." Although only song four, it was the moment when each Foo got a chance to solo – Pat Smear coaxing out cracked, stoner-punk sounds on baritone guitar, Nate Mendel contributing a similarly body-enveloping bass line, Jaffee teasing out his own heavy organ jams, guitarist Chris Shiflett and Grohl trading screaming riffs. Hawkins – who by now had removed his shirt since it was so hot in the room – did his wild-man drumming thing ("Even though he does solos in every f---ing song," Grohl quipped) and took the mic and sing-scatted like Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. To the delight of everyone in attendance, Grohl himself even climbed behind the kit for a solo; not coincidentally, the already-earsplitting volume increased once he did.
"Well, hey, thanks for f---ing coming," Grohl said before the set's final song, a simmering, sing-along-filled "Everlong." The gratitude was genuine and appreciated, but everyone in attendance no doubt felt the same exact thing--only toward the Foo Fighters.
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