They say moments of pain can sometimes lead to the biggest triumphs.
After the seismic loss of beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins last year, just having the Foo Fighters continuing and returning to Australia is a victory in itself. But with arguably their best album in a decade in tow, the emotionally-charged But Here We Are, little did we know that their live show could also reach a similar high.
This tour – including its dates and supports – was cut and pasted from its cancellation 12 months earlier. Melbourne was the only city to get two shows, and rowdy trio The Chats’ fast and furious garage rock is better fit than Teen Jesus and The Jean Teasers’ punk from two nights earlier. Usually all business and hardly any banter, frontman Eamon Sandwith gives plenty of thanks to the crowd and his bandmates, and also brief explainers for tracks including “6L GTR”, “Panic Attack”, “Identity Theft”, and “Struck By Lightning”. They save their most notable tracks until last with a closing trio of “Smoko”, “Better Than You”, and “Pub Feed”.
“NIGHT 2, MOTHERF***ERS, NIGHT TWO!” frontman Dave Grohl screams as he and the Foos take to the stage, keen to carry on from where they left off from Monday’s first show. Good luck finding anyone not switched on or captivated from the opening bars of “All My Life”, the pounding “No Son of Mine” with added Black Sabbath and AC/DC riffs, and a roll call of fist-pumpers including “The Pretender”, “Walk”, and “Times Like These”.
Josh Freese, a famed guest drummer with everyone from Queens of the Stone Age to Devo and Nine Inch Nails, is the new man behind the Foos’ kit, and has arguably the biggest of shoes to fill. But as the hits roll out and the show goes on, it’s clear that the band got it so right.
As amazing and beloved as Hawkins was, Freese has added a new energy to the Foos’ live show, with the intensity of each song hitting even harder and giving some a fresh direction. This was clear during the ferocious breakdowns during “The Pretender”, “Monkey Wrench”, and “Breakout” where he double-kicked his drums with brute force. His efforts are clearly noticed by the crowd as they gift him with his own ‘FREEEEEEEEEESE’ chant, one that’s sure to now be replicated at shows all over the world.
With the exception of 2014’s Sonic Highways, at least one track from all of the Foos’ 11 albums is played, all with amped-up gusto. And the inclusion of “Generator” not only prevents a carbon copy of Monday’s setlist, but also slots in perfectly next to similar-sounding new album track “Under You”.
The tribute to Hawkins with “Aurora” and its atmospheric riffs and outro jam provides all the feels, even if there wasn’t a repeat of the flock of birds magically flying from the roof on Monday night. The Foos then turn back the clock for the old-school fans with first ever single “This Is a Call”, before finishing the main set in rousing style with “Best of You”.
My well-positioned lounge seat gives me enough time to dash to the bar for a beer before the encore, where Grohl is armed with a double-necked guitar, another first for this tour. He thrashes away on it for new album standout, the 10-minute epic “The Teacher”. It’s a poignant and fitting inclusion before they oh-so-predictably close with “Everlong”, not that anyone complained as the cameras feature scores of happy moshers singing along.
Clocking in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, this 2023 version of a Foos live show was ferocious, fun, and close to flawless. It’s something which would have seemed unfathomable after such a year of heartache and loss for Grohl and his bandmates. But it served as a testament to how amazingly well the Foo Fighters have regrouped, the magic they can still create live, and proved they have all the passion and pieces in place to continue dominating this environment for years to come.
Foo Fighters’ AU/NZ tour continues to Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. Ticket information can be found here.