Woah Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah: Foo Fighters Live at Wembley

Posted on November 3, 2013

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The Foo Fighters are fast rolling in on twenty years as a band. When you factor in the years that Dave Grohl spent in Nirvana and Scream before that, that is a whole lot of time to be in the music industry, let alone in two of the biggest rock bands of all time. They were the headlining band at the second gig I ever saw, which was at the Manchester Evening News Arena, in 2002. The MEN is a fairly large arena, but this live DVD is set at Wembley Stadium, which is the biggest football stadium in the country. Christ, it’s in the top 10 biggest football stadiums in the world. This is a big deal, a big show, with upwards of 80,000 people there paying to see one band.

Sure, you can argue that festivals provide much bigger crowds, but this is the biggest headlining show a band can do off their own back in this country, without the added allure of 748 other bands, comedy tents, and a shit tonne of people who go to say they’ve been. This is one band, a load of people there to see that band. It is what every teenager starting a band aspires to reach, whether their mission statement puts it forward or not. Understandably, you’d want to record it for prosperity, and all this brings us to the live DVD of the gig.

One thing you know you’re going to get with Foo Fighters is honest, sing-along rock songs, and they have them in absolute spades. This is rammed home by the fact the show opens with ‘The Pretender’, ‘Times Like These’ and ‘No Way Back’, three cracking songs, and you are still safe in the knowledge that there is so much to come. These boys have a formidable back catalogue. The vast majority of the hits are on display here, and of course they get the biggest reactions. ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘Learn to Fly’, ‘All My Life’, ‘Breakout’, ‘Everlong’, they’re all here, nestled alongside new stuff and rarely heard stuff. The set-list is a fans dream.

It is when being sung back to them by a crowd that you can really appreciate how good these pop songs are. Despite both featuring in the quiet acoustic middle, ‘Everlong’ and ‘My Hero’ are the best they’ve produced, and the vocal accompaniment of the crowd gives them a whole new dimension. The acoustic interlude is built around a surprise rendition of ‘Marigold’, a song recorded first by Grohl and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic during the ‘In Utero’ recording sessions as they waited for Kurt Cobain. Sure, it sounds a little stuck in the mud at times, but just seeing it in a live setting must have been fantastic for fans of Grohl’s song writing from the very beginning. ‘Stacked Actors’ sounds absolutely huge, reminding everyone in attendance that this is a rock band first and foremost, points accentuated by ‘The Pretender’ and ‘All My Life.’

The entire band also looks like they are having the time of their lives. Grohl smiles throughout the entire thing, and the mid-set introductions turn out to be a joy. Normally this part of the set would irritate me, and it has something I have endeavoured to parody at most gigs I’ve played, but the joy here is infectious. Heck, the whole thing leads to a triangle solo and a group of the crowd throwing up a triangle sign, which you can’t help but smile at. Whilst many bands give off the impression of authentic shock and happiness at their position, it often feels contrived. None of this does.

Still, the almost two hour set is ambitious, and there are many things I found tiring about it. First of all, the vast majority of songs seem to be extended by a mid song dick around, three or four minutes of nothing at all, as the band tries to flesh the set out. Sometimes it works, as in the metal sections in the middle of ‘Stacked Actors’, but even this is ruined to a degree by the extensive drum solo and well, bollocks. It’s telling that the best performance of the show comes in the shape of ‘The Pretender’ and ‘All My Life’, songs that aren’t messed with at all. I can understand that the band might be bored with some of the songs that were pushing ten years old, but don’t mess with them too much. (Says the man who plays in a band that abandoned an entire part of their best song in favour of ‘My Sharona’.)

My biggest pet peeve of the whole thing however, is something that annoyed me when I saw the band live over 10 years ago myself. Every song, and I swear it is every single song, features at Dave Grohl at some point giving out a long, creaking scream of ‘woah yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaah’. Fine, it can fit once in the set, as ‘Everlong’ hurtles back into its last chorus for instance’, but in every song? It gets irritating, and irritating fast. If the singer from Drowning Pool (RIP) shouts ‘come on’ before every chorus, we take the piss out of him. Dave Grohl is not immune to this.

There are other things, such as the Led Zeppelin encore that did nothing for me and the complete lack of anything from the first album, but that’s nitpicking. This is a huge show, and a landmark moment for a band who come across as genuinely excited to still be able to do what they do. And for that, I can’t grumble too much.

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Posted in: Music, Reviews