It might go without saying that when the calendars rolled over from 2021 to 2022, the notion of a stadium gig from the mighty Foo Fighters in Geelong felt like the farthest thing from the minds of music-lovers. But of course, life is unpredictable, and so too is the music scene that follows closely behind.
In fact, it was just mere weeks ago that the rumour mill went into overdrive with talk that the iconic rock outfit would be finding their way down to Victoria for a one-off show in March. As it turned out, it was all confirmed shortly afterwards, with the massive event taking place as part of ALWAYS LIVE, which realises the long-held dream of late Aussie music icon Michael Gudinski, who passed away in March of 2021.
The event – described as the first and largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere – was designed to pay homage to Gudinski’s passion for live music and his home state, while celebrating Victoria’s music scene and highlighting its importance as a national and global destination for live music.
“ALWAYS LIVE was a passion project for my dad to ensure Victoria continued to be recognised as the music capital of Australia, and Melbourne as one of the leading music cities in the world,” explained ALWAYS LIVE Chair Matt Gudinski.
“Dad worked tirelessly over many years to bring his vision and concept to life and to obtain the support of the Victorian Government,” he added. “The initiative has been in the works for a long time and has been impacted by COVID-19 leading to several postponements of its launch and delivery. I’m honoured to be part of now making it a reality at a time when the live music scene needs all the support it can get.
“The focus of this year’s instalment of ALWAYS LIVE is reinvigorating and reconnecting the State through the power of live music. I know Dad would be very proud to see the event launched and form a major part of re-establishing a thriving live music scene.”
Indeed, with plenty still to be announced, ALWAYS LIVE fittingly kicked off with this large-scale event – also featuring the likes of The Meanies and Amyl and The Sniffers – which also served as the first stadium show to be seen on Australian shores in close to two years. As such, it was an opportunity that was not going to be wasted.
Ever since it was announced that The Meanies would be serving as the opening act for this one-off show, it felt like an obvious choice. After all, the connection runs deep, with The Meanies having jumped on Nirvana’s famous tour of Australia back when Dave Grohl made his first visit to the country in 1992.
Of course, it feels as though almost no time has passed for the outfit who, despite technically falling under the categorisation of a ‘veteran’ act, still feel as fresh as ever. Proving that it was still business as usual despite this high-profile gig, the group kicked into “You Know the Drill”, instantly falling back into old habits as they showcased their powerful live show.
Performing with the same sort of energy and intensity as they ever did, frontman Link Meanie felt like the quintessential frontman as he bounced around the stage, hanging off the mic as he equally belted out and screamed along to classics such as “10% Weird”, “Gangrenous”, “Ton of Bricks”, or even newer tracks such as “Old Car to Shangri-La”.
Needless to say, even 30 years after they first kicked off the relationship with the likes of Dave Grohl, The Meanies are still performing at top level, expertly setting the stage for what’s to come.
After a brief intermission, which felt as though it existed only to let the rain come down harder, fellow locals Amyl and The Sniffers took to the stage. Fresh from a nomination at the previous day’s Australian Music Prize, the beloved outfit burst out of the gate with their their trademark brand of high-energy, frenetic intensity, with vocalist Amy Taylor’s iconic stage presence quickly becoming the focal point of their spitfire set.
Even from the outset, it was clear that Taylor was in total control of the stage; her down-to-earth nature and commanding vocals making her an endearing, yet totally arresting performance. “I’ve got plenty of energy, it’s my currency,” Taylor sings on “Guided by Angels”, inarguably summing yo the entirety of their set.
Belting through a rapid-fire set (as if a single second was not to be wasted) comprising tracks taken from their earlier releases and two studio LPs, the quartet felt like an obvious choice for this opening spot. Tracks like “I Got You”, “Security”, and “Don’t Need a Cunt Like You To Love Me” served as obvious favourites, while closing cuts “Some Mutts Can’t Be Muzzled” and “Hertz” underlined exactly why it is that Amyl and The Sniffers are well on the way to becoming Australia’s next big exports.
As the grounds of the stadium filled out in anticipation of the main event, it felt as if we had travelled back in time to an era in which COVID had never existed. Mass crowds of music fans rubbed shoulders like the good old days, as cheers and chants rang out with eager excitement about what was set to follow.
As the lights dimmed and the crowd roared, the Foo Fighters appeared before us, feeling like a sight for sore eyes in the wake of empty stages and cancelled tours. Frontman Dave Grohl walked around the stage, simply staring back at the crowd as we all wordlessly exchanged the sentiment that it had been far too long for such an event. And this of course was only amplified as Grohl began the set with an a capella rendition of “Times Like These”. “It’s times like these you learn to live again,” he sung, the messaging loud and clear for all in attendance before the rest of the band joined in to bring it to a cathartic peak.
In mere moments, we were back amongst it; live music on an international scale was back, and the Foo Fighters were leading the charge. In fact, only minutes in and excitement was at fever pitch. Anyone could have been forgiven for assuming that the last two years hadn’t happened, as the pulsating crowd throbbed in unison to tracks like “The Pretender” and “Learn to Fly”, or even relatively newer anthems such as “No Son of Mine” or “The Sky is A Neighbourhood”.
But almost immediately it was clear this was the Foo Fighters’ world, and we were just living in it. Extended solos and lengthy jams fast became commonplace, while Grohl ensured we were all kept satiated as he revealed to us that the band would be back for a large-scale national tour in November.
As the group ventured into the likes of “My Hero” (itself a major highlight), their newer material was well-taken care of as well, with the title track to their most recent album – “Medicine at Midnight” – turning into the longest track of the night before giving us a taste of their Dee Gees altar egos with a cover of “You Should Be Dancing”.
As band introduction gave way to Grohl and Taylor Hawkins switching places for a rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, the end was in sight. The likes of “All My Life” preceded an earlier focus by way of “This is A Call” and “Big Me”, before “All My Life” and “Monkey Wrench” brought us to the end.
For those who hadn’t been paying attention, Hawkins had been proudly sitting behind a drum kit whose bass drum was emblazoned with an iconic image of the equally-legendary Gudinski. As Grohl choked up while paying tribute to the late icon, a dedication was made as they dove into a powerful rendition of “Everlong”, complete with a fireworks finale.
A lot has changed for the Foo Fighters and the Australian music industry since the band last toured. While the latter suffered greatly due to COVID, the former found themselves deservedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fane, just to name a solitary milestone in a field of many.
While it’s clear that an event like ALWAYS LIVE would’ve made Gudinski proud, who knows how things will change in the next eight months between now and when the Foo Fighters return? As history dictates, both will be coming back stronger, and more vibrant than ever.
Foo Fighters @ GMHBA Stadium, Geelong 04/03/21 Setlist
‘Times Like These’
‘Learn to Fly’
‘No Son of Mine’
‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’
‘Medicine at Midnight’
‘You Should Be Dancing’ (Bee Gees cover)
‘Somebody to Love’ (Queen cover)
‘All My Life’
‘This Is a Call’
‘Best of You’