“What if I say I’m not like the others, what if I say I’m not just another
One of your plays, you’re the Pretender. What if I say I’ll never surrender”
I made a mistake. A grave and, with hindsight, troubling error of judgement. Maybe I wasn’t thinking clearly, maybe I acted hastily. It played on my mind for some time. I sought assurances from others. Yet corroboration was either not convincing or came too late and I went ahead and did it – the mistake was there, for hundreds of people to see in an instant, at the touch of a screen: I tweeted that the Foo Fighters were “possibly the greatest band of my generation.”
Saturday night they played to a sold-out 80,000 crowd at the London Olympic Stadium. And I was there. I’d never seen them before, and boy, was I excited. But it soon became quite clear how misjudged my tweet was. From the moment Dave Grohl shouts “are you fucking ready?” before belting ‘All My Life’ as the opener (the opener?!! Jeeez!) to the closing trio of ‘Best of You’, ‘Times Like These’ and ‘Everlong’ (those 4-songs right there would be worth the entry fee alone), with a sprinkling of Lennon and Mercury covers for a laugh, you know you are in the presence of rock & roll legends. Not just that, but rock & roll legends who are being really, really good at being rock & roll legends.
49-year old Grohl doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. He can do that, though, and still keep his place among rock’s maestros because he is so many things in so many ways. Goes without saying he’s the quintessential rock frontman. A prolific songwriter. A guy you want to hang out with, and would probably find it hard to begrudge your missus sleeping with. But above all that, first and foremost, and what makes this band stand out from any other like them today, is the exceptional musicianship. I’ve always thought this, but seeing it live is something quite different. To anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn’t, I ran out of superlatives in my efforts to express how much I enjoyed the gig and how star-struck I was just from being in the same stadium as Grohl & co.
I’ve seen some superb acts live that, even if I love them, at times can overplay and you’re left thinking the set would have benefited from being curtailed slightly. Not so with the Foos. The two and a half hour set flew by, and even with that some notable tracks were omitted. It makes you remember, or realise if you didn’t realise before, how much high quality music this outstanding band have produced over the past 24 years.
Yep, the tweet was a big mistake. It was obvious 3 or 4 songs in. It was the adverb that did it. Possibly?? Worse than unnecessary, it was plain wrong. ‘Possibly’ made the statement inaccurate. There was no ‘possibly’ about it. ‘Possibly’ leaves doubt, room for an alternative. ‘Possibly’ is what you say to someone who asks if you’re free to meet up this weekend but you’re waiting for a better offer. On this performance, on the recalling of their back catalogue and their continued ability to produce albums like Concrete & Gold, still, with monster tracks like ‘Make it Right’ and ‘The Sky is the Neighbourhood’, it was beyond doubt: The Foo Fighters are quite simply the greatest band of my generation. Formed after I arrived on this earth, will be listened to after I depart…
A word on Taylor Hawkins. Drumming for the Foos must be a daunting prospect, like the hand surgeon operating on a pro-violinist maybe, or even the ENT surgeon removing the inevitable polyps from Dave Grohl’s vocal chords. You can’t f*ck it up. Not only do you know about Grohl’s previous life and abilities but you know everyone else knows about it and that they know that you know. But Hawkins was nothing short of immense. Driving the Foos’ unrelenting power, making the audience feel every pulse. The physicality of his performance, the strength and stamina needed to drum solidly like he does for two and a half hours, was just awesome. Part way through they even elevated his drum kit in admiration. Then after delivering the best drum solo since John Bohnam smashed out Moby Dick, the band did in fact go off for Grohl to start an emotional solo of My Hero, presumably just to give Hawkins a brief rest; only when most of the audience must surely have had tears rolling down their chests from Grohl’s vocal did the band come back on and delight us all once again.