Like most every other pleasure in life, the best things get better with age. That theory holds true for one of rock-n-roll’s most elder of statesmen, Foo Fighters, who logged a nearly three hour set of pure rock splendor in Tulsa on Wednesday night.
The alt-rock juggernauts — fronted by vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter Dave Grohl, is rounded out by guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer and versatile uber-talent Taylor Hawkins — played in front of a capacity crowd at the BOK Center on a tour stop to support the band’s ninth studio album Concrete and Gold.
Yes, the band, which Grohl formed 23 years ago following the sudden end of Nirvana, have been at it for quite some time. Over the course of nearly 2 1/2 decades the band have honed its craft and reworked some of the older material to keep sets sounding and new.
Despite the members nearing their 50s (save for Smear, who is eyeing his 60s) Foo Fighters still sounds, looks and feels like a band fresh out of the gate, while also functioning like a well-oiled machine. And that’s a good thing, because the new stuff still sounds just as fun as the old stuff.
Following a lively half-hour set from UK rockers The Struts, Foo Fighters took the stage and promptly launched into “Run,” the explosive lead single from their latest release. They followed it up with stellar versions of fan favorites with 2002’s “All My Life” and a killer seven minute version of 1999 arena anthem “Learn to Fly,” in which Grohl and Co. broke for instrumental breaks before bringing back the final chorus.
Grohl teased the audience that the band have “a lot of fucking songs,” and promised that the band would deliver “the long show tonight,” a promise that was met with enthusiastic applause from the BOK crowd.
From there, the band throttled out 2007 cut “The Pretender,” which ended up being a guitar dual that saw Grohl and Shiflett trading licks. The newest singalong hit “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” which featured three backup singers, followed. The super duper cool Wasting Light track “Rope” was next, and saw the band extending the song’s outro with Hawkins being Grohl’s sparring partner this time, before Grohl eventually gave way to Hawkins for a drum solo.
Grohl and Co. are showmen. They know that the audience packed in to hear the hits, but they have a duty to play newer tracks that haven’t had a chance to build a pedigree. That’s when they have to get creative, which became evident when the band played Concrete and Gold song “Sunday Rain,” a groovy, Eagles-tinged track with vocals provided by Hawkins. When the record came out, this was one of the tracks I overlooked, because it didn’t really grab me. However, it may be one of my favorite post-2000s Foo tracks, because Hawkins lays it all out on the line, both vocally and musically, and he did it while his drum riser was elevated about 10 feet above the stage. It was a neat moment.
They’re very good at balancing the set with new and old tunes in an effort to keep the audience engaged. Grohl introduced a set of old favorites next in “My Hero” (arguably the coolest audience singalong moment I’ve witnessed in person) and blistering versions of “Wasting Light” tracks “These Days” and “Walk.”
Even the band introductions were entertaining. Shiflett started by noodling out a few licks of Ted Nugent‘s “Cat Scratch Fever” before taking over on vocals for a solid cover of Alice Cooper‘s “Under My Wheels.” Grohl then tipped his cap to bassist Nate Mendel who briefly teased a little of Grease’s “You’re the One That I Want,” before Grohl stopped him and said with a sly smirk that the band didn’t know much of that. After keyboardist Rami Jaffee pounded out the opening chords of Van Halen’s “Jump,” Grohl and the band joined in briefly – before abandoning it altogether. Guitarist Pat Smear then took on Ramones track “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and Grohl rattled off a few spirited “Hey ho, let’s go’s” before he shut it down. “That’s all we know of that, too,” he said with a laugh. “Although that’s probably all you really need.”
Grohl voice’s has the capability to go from a smooth, intimate coo to a powerful harrowing screech in one fell swoop, but he has to let it rest at times. He gave it a break and hopped behind Hawkins’s drum kit for a note-for-note cover of Queen‘s “Under Pressure,” allowing Hawkins and Struts singer Luke Spiller to handle vocal duties.
Grohl maintained a banter with the crowd throughout the night, telling one man in the pit that he’d leave the stage to sign his chest if he’d put down his large sign so that others around him could enjoy the show. He even attempted crowd police and tried to intervene in what he thought was a fight.
“Want me to come down there and help ya’ll figure shit out?” he asked, drawing laughter from the crowd.
All My Life
Learn to Fly
The Sky Is a Neighborhood
Under My Wheels (Alice Cooper cover)
You’re the One That I Want/Jump/Blitzkreig Bop (medley)
Under Pressure (Queen cover)
This is a Call
Times Like These
Breakdown (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
Best of You
Skin & Bones
Let There Be Rock(AC/DC cover)