Where do you begin the story of seeing Foo Fighters play their 20-year anniversary set at Fenway Park? Some sort of baseball analogy—it a grand slam … of course! Dave Grohl and crew played for over 2.5 hours straight, despite their lead man’s broken leg. You’ve possibly heard by now that he busted it a month ago in Sweden. But that shady shit isn’t holding the band back from this worldwide stadium tour—Dave instead collaborated with his crew to create a theatrical, Game of Thrones-gone-rock and roll perch to perform from. He keeps his foot elevated, and the crowd gets an awesome show. This resilience and enthusiasm soars through the audience, immediately building camaraderie.
Opening with big swingers from The Colour and the Shape, the Foo brought everyone to their feet in the first minute with “Everlong” and “Monkey Wrench.” They big bass and rumbling rhythms that filled the stadium and would make metal god Lemmy Kilmister proud. With pulses racing Dave informed the crowd that he knew Boston’s club scene well, “I played the Rat! I played T.T.’s, man!” The woman next to me giddily exclaimed, “We’re experiencing history here!”
With musical taste all over the spectrum as displayed in his Sonic Highways docu-series, the Foo weren’t shy to pay homage to their influences. Classic rock is more and more apparent in their recent albums, and as such Van Halen and Queen covers came into set rotation, with Dave denouncing that they’re basically “a glorified bar mitzvah band.” Going through cover songs prompted sad admission from Dave that his band came in third place at the battle of the bands in 1983 at Thomas Jefferson High in Alexandria, VA. But forget all that suburban drivel, because “Now my band gets to play Fenway!” Dave shouted.
Reaching the 90 minute mark when many bands would take a nap, or disappear from the stage to tease an encore—Foo launched into “All My Life” making the stadium feel like a high school gymnasium riot. They broke apart the chorus and extended the track with blistering drum solos to turn the ripper into an 8-minute work of art. Alongside extended hits and covers, they went into some Eagles-esque desert riffing (on Dave’s air cast) to give dimension to the night’s energy—but this never amounted to a drifting Dave Matthews song that sounds like sweaty hippie butthole. It was rock bliss.
And once the 2-hour mark hit, Dave wiggled his cast and with a nod of mystery quipped, “This is free for all territory. We do some things we never do, and things we may never do again.” At this warning I hoped that somehow punk icon Ian MacKaye would emerge to duo on “Out of Step” or something. This concept unfortunately remained in my head, but they did dig into the vault to play “I’ll Stick Around” and “This is a Call” from their debut album. After an ACDC cover, which didn’t highlight Dave’s vocal strengths, but Taylor Hawkins’ drum mastery, their hit “Best of You” capped the evening. Dave again encouraged Dan (the lighting guy) to shine on everyone. “I wanna see all your faces in these big shows so it feels like a sweaty club down the street,” Grohl said with warm sincerity. Through a broken leg and an endurance set list, this is the tao of Foo. They continually produce material that thousands latch onto, and find a way to maintain relatability and community in their shows. This first of two nights full of hits and fancy stage lighting was a big hit … shoot, I’d call it a home run. (photo slideshow + video below)
Boston, MA post-punk Mission of Burma set things off with a wall of post-punk distortion. The dynamic, contorted rhythms have been influential to generations of musicians working outside of the box. It proved somewhat ostracizing with the radio-friendly audience, but a treat nonetheless to see in a place like Fenway. Fellow Bostonians from the third wave of ska, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, followed up decked out in suits complete with bondage zippers and patches. Skanking in the ballpark as the sun set mounted old school emotions that toppled over in Boston-sized proportions when lead man Dickey Barrett brought out retired Red Sox pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. The legend met roaring applause with his suggestion, “Before you leave, take a mouthful of beer and spit it on the field. And then your DNA is here forever too.” The Bosstones rode this momentum into their hit “The Impression that I Get.” The stage was set with hometown adoration perfectly.