Foo Fighters at Ak-Chin Pavilion
Break A Leg: A Night With The Foo Fighters
by Nikole Tower
photo by Nikole Tower
When Dave Grohl broke his leg by falling off stage in Sweden earlier this summer, everyone thought the Foo Fighters’ U.S. Tour was over before it even began. However, Grohl wasn’t about to let all of his fans down. He personally designed a giant throne made out of guitars that would be placed center stage so he can still rock out. Singing, screaming, dancing, guitar playing. Dave Grohl did it all from his mighty throne. He shared on stage that the throne was actually the best thing to happen and it made this the best tour he’s been on (but don’t all artists say that about the tour they’re currently on?). Foo Fighters performed an outstanding total of 22 songs which included many Van Halen and Led Zeppelin covers and guest appearances from Jewel and Gary Clark Jr, who opened for the band in the beginning of the night.
Ak-Chin Pavilion was filled with people of all ages on Friday night. It was actually strange to feel so young among the roughly 20,000 concert-goers. Gary Clark Jr set the night with epic guitar solos and a mellow ambience, a vibe that deeply contrasts the main act’s performance. It was a simple stage setup—the artist’s name was in huge letters behind him and the musicians were lit up by soft blue lights. Ak-Chin’s acoustics are perfect to carry the sound throughout the outdoor venue.
The giant FF flag fell down as the band burst into song. Dave Grohl sat on his majestic throne with guitar in hand. Guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear along with bassist Nate Mendel joined Grohl at the front of the stage. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee and drummer Taylor Hawkins, who was sporting a “Foos” t-shirt, hung in the back but were still plainly visible. They began the night with a fan favorite and a track on their Greatest Hits, “Everlong.” You might not think that it is possible to dance while sitting, but Grohl proved just how wrong that idea is. The frontman encouraged everyone in the audience to dance while he engaged in an impressive guitar solo.
Everyone except for Grohl stepped off stage until it was just a man and his guitar. A sea of cell phone flashlights lit up the night as he took a minute to appreciate their crew and dedicated the song “Big Me” to their touring family. It was a slower version of the quick paced hit song, but it had a ballad-like quality that made the song somehow even more meaningful, especially as the crews’ faces were shown across the big screen in thanks.
A lot can be told by a band by how the musicians are introduced. Grohl did the honor of recognizing his friends on stage. He spoke about how Mendel was the one who told him to “ditch the drums” so he can join him and Smear in their new band called Foo Fighters. Grohl pointed out Jaffee as the only one who required true musician talent as he played his magic behind the keyboards. Cautioning the audience not to spook him, Grohl introduced the band’s “rescue dog,” also known as drummer Taylor Hawkins. He wasn’t wrong. Hawkins did have that lost puppy look about him. After each intro, the member would break out into a short 30 second Van Halen song.
Calling out the old fans of Foo Fighters, Grohl announced that the next song was dedicated to those who have stuck around during the last 20 years and started playing the first chords of “Breakout.” The band performed almost their entire Greatest Hits album, so it was easy to sing along to every song whether you were a die-hard fan or not.
Foo Fighters have invited many musical guests on stage during this tour and that night wasn’t any different. Gary Clark Jr took the stage once more to play an outstanding guitar solo on a mashup song of “What Did I Do?” and “God As My Witness.” The most shocking surprise appearance is when Jewel walked on stage. Grohl mentioned that it was her idea to cover Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Her vocals and performance stunned the crowd, especially considering that everyone on stage never even got the chance to rehearse. I took a video of the performance which can be watched here.
I almost thought that the band decided not to play the title track of their sixth album, but it turned out to be the fourth to last song that they played. “Skin and Bones” was one of the many songs that they decided to add their own live twist to. The four minute song quickly turned into seven as the band included long improvised instrumentals that gave the song a new but familiar sound. Grohl even surprised himself. “That’s what happens when you’re in a band with your best friends,” Grohl commented in reference to the fact that not even the band knew what they were doing. The frontman laughed it off, “[the audience] actually enjoyed that.”
One more cover – Pink Floyd’s “In The Flesh” – and an original – “Best of You” – closed the show. Everyone on stage walked to the front, even the crippled Grohl, to bring the two and a half hour show to an end. The applause felt never ending, and I don’t think anyone felt like leaving. After the last cover, Grohl asked the audience if they were done, and the shouts were almost deafening. If the audience is still going strong after standing and singing along for over two hours, then you know the band on stage is doing something right. Everyone with plans to see this band in the future are in for a real treat.