You gotta hand it to Dave Grohl. In a world where rock songs are largely irrelevant to the pop culture, where radio support and record sales are a quaint reminder of days gone past, he and his band of fellow Foo Fighters managed to bang out Fenway Park for two consecutive nights. The second of the doubleheader was a high energy affair from the start, with Grohl racing down the long catwalk and basking in the crowd’s approval, before running back to the stage and kicking into “All Of Me.” And the marathon was on. Featuring two of the toothiest guys in rock music, Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins were flashing smiles all night long and swapped places for a rousing version of “Under Pressure.” It’s easy to forget how good a drummer Grohl is since he’s not behind the kit much at all when playing live, and he threw in a bit of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” drum part at the end, just so we wouldn’t forget who his previous band was. Meanwhile, Hawkins established that he’s got a great voice and was very comfortable singing Mercury’s lines, no easy task.
In the first special guest appearance, Grohl’s daughter Violet would one of four background singers on “The Sky Is A Neighborhood,” and when she and her cohorts reappeared later in the set for “Dirty Water,” her dad did what all dads of teenaged daughters do- embarrass them in public. Commenting on her vocal prowess, Dave said “Move over, Adele” as Violet rolled her eyes and clasped her hand over her face. Next up was Dave’s orthopedic doctor who fixed his broken leg a couple of years back, and Dr. Lew Schon threw done some nasty Elaine Benes dance moves while singing “Blitzkreig Bop.” The other special guest happened to linger in Boston for an extra day as his band played the two previous nights at TD Garden. Calling Joe Walsh (sporting a Ramones shirt) to the stage was a visible thrill to the friendliest man in rock, and when “Rocky Mountain Way” was over, Grohl said “There’s nothing more surreal than Joe Walsh saying ‘Thank you, that was fun!'” Wondering how he was going to top that, “I don’t even know. Thank you, good night. That’s it. We gotta go!”
Of course that wouldn’t be the end of the show; if there is one thing that Grohl cares about, it’s giving his fans the best show he can. And during that 2015 show where he did break his leg during the second song, they played 23 more songs before it was over. Damn. So there were more fist-pumping anthems, more salutes to the crowd, more impassioned playing of their hits such as “Monkeywrench,” “This Is A Call,” and “Best Of You,” which had the band stretching it out. At the point when the darkening clouds finally made good on their threat and unleashed a short but heavy torrent, Grohl used the opportunity to walk out in the ramp and share in the experience, later doing the band introductions and making them get wet too. It was a giant stadium show, but it was a shared experience. And speaking of giant stadium shows, that’s what Foo Fighters shows have become, complete with giant catwalk, constant arms in the air, even an elevating drum platform during that lingering arena rock embarrassment known as the drum solo occurred. I wonder what Cobain would make of all this. Truth be told, I don’t think Grohl would give a shit. He’s having too much fun on his own terms.
When Foo Fighters first played Fenway two summers ago, they handpicked local (and incredibly unsung) heroes Mission Of Burma as well as Mighty Mighty Bosstones for the openers, and this time Grohl chose the western part of the state for representation. First up was Speedy Ortiz, the four piece from Northampton fronted by Sadie DuPuis. In five short years they’ve cranked out three albums, including this year’s Twerp Verse. Prickly guitars and sweet melodies collide with each other, building tension along the way. I’d say it’s a safe bet that their tour van has seen its share of Breeders and Sonic Youth songs played in it.
Dinosaur Jr. is of course the most influential band to come from the Pioneer Valley, making a slew of great records before Mascis put the band on pause in the late ’90s after making two records without Barlow and Murph. It’s hard to believe they’ve been reformed for a dozen years now, and as reunions go this is certainly among the most fruitful, yielding a handful of strong records. Given the abbreviated set time, the trio stuck to the storied past and just played “Left/Right” from their latest record-I’ve seen Mascis in the drum seat a few times and his six string prowess is legendary but this is the first time I’ve seen him play bass. Hearing songs like “The Lung” or “Little Fury Things” echoing around the green walls of Fenway was surreal enough, and it just got levels weirder when they ended their set by bringing Scott Helland to the stage and blasting through “Training Ground,” a song that Mascis, Barlow and Helland recorded as the pre-Dinosaur hardcore band Deep Wound. Back in 1983 when I saw the band play in the Greenfield Grange, no one could have predicted that 35 years later they’d be playing that same song at Fenway. As Mogwai once noted, hardcore will never die but you will.
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