“We’ve got 20 years of songs to fit in” declared Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl as he asked the audience whether they wanted to stay all night, skipping work the day after. The response was an overwhelming yes, as 50,000 prepared to send their excuses in to the workplace.
It’s easy to forget just how big, and indeed strong, the biggest rock band in the world’s back catalogue is. But at Emirates Old Trafford, they pulled out all their hits to a delighted, enthusiastic crowd.
Striding on stage slightly early at 8pm, they catch some of the audience off-guard with a number of people still making their way in to the stadium ahead of the publicised 8.30pm start. They immediately launch into Everlong, and instantly have the crowd jumping, cheering and singing back every word to them. It’s a pattern which continues throughout their stunning two and a half hour set.
Blasting their way through energetic, up-beat hit after hit, they are on good form. Full fuelled rock tracks Arlandria, This Is A Call, Monkey Wrench and All My Life, typify their approach. High velocity, high volume, extended solos and riffs, which have the crowd in their palms. The weather plays a slight part in proceedings in the first few minutes though as the wind slightly distorts the sound, but it’s no matter and just adds, in a way, to the stadium atmosphere. The weather also rears its head mid-way through as a ten minutes of drizzle come down on a crowd, which doesn’t care as it enjoys the proceedings too much.
The American rockers, though, are versatile and it’s not just high paced rock music which delights the crowd. A stripped back, slower rendition of Big Me is stunning and when Grohl makes his way down the catwalk for a brief acoustic set, he performs a solo version of the outstanding My Hero and Times Like These, before he makes his way to the pop-up stage with the rest of the band as they blast out some of the songs which inspired them to first pick up instruments – Queen’s Under Pressure, The Faces’ Stay With Me (sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins) and ACDC’s Let There Be Rock. It’s an excellent homage to some of the finest bands of yesteryear (and today as the case may be!).
Throughout, Grohl interacts with the crowd with ease. Laughing, joking, inspiring cheers and screams, occasionally toying with the 50,000 packed into the stadium. He’s pretty much the master of doing so, a skill he has harnessed during his 20 year Foo Fighter career. And the fans love him for it. He jokes with first timers as to why they haven’t made it to a Foo Fighters gig earlier, with 20 years of opportunities; he tells of performing on the same bill as Taylor Swift (to whom he dedicates a performance of Congregation); and even jokes about drugs causing a psychedelic haze as he is joined by an accordion whilst performing Skin and Bones.
As the Foo Fighters build to the close the fans continue to sing. There will be no surprise if 50,000 people are feeling a little hoarse in the aftermath and as the band blasts out its final numbers Breakout and Best Of You, the crowd is louder than ever. Although the tracks from their latest album, the musically excellent Sonic Highways, failed to resonate fully with the audience, partly due to some unfamiliarity amongst some of the crowd and partly due to it’s different feel to previous material, Foo Fighters have more than enough material in their locker to deliver an outstanding concert, one which leaves the huge crowd completely satisfied, if a little sore of throat.
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