After playing a one-off show in early 2022 in Melbourne, which would sadly serve as one of drummer Taylor Hawkins’ final shows, the legendary Foo Fighters returned last night.
Opening act Hot Milk (UK) hit the stage at AAMI Park with a bang, kicking things off with “Party On My Deathbed”. Delivering a level of energy and punchy performance that defied the heat of the Melbourne afternoon and a partially filled stadium, the band took only moments to make their mark. Manchester has a solid reputation for musical exports, so it is no surprise that this band seems to pull from a hugely diverse range of influences and sounds, though managing to avoid sounding cliched or predictable. There are traces of punk, pop, emo-pop, and alternative rock, which all seamlessly blended into a belter of a set. I confess my ignorance before this gig, not having heard of their work, but I came away as a fan. Vocalist/guitarist Hannah “Han” Mee declared towards the end of the set that “you can’t kill rock and roll!” and with talent like this on the rise, that’s a given.
Next up was the excellently named Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. Hailing from our nation’s capital, Canberra, it was great to see a support act so genuinely delighted to be on stage and obviously grateful for the incredible opportunity. That said, this was clearly a well-deserved slot. Vocalist Anna Ryan is a powerhouse, and combined with a strong stage presence, they commanded the attention and respect of the crowd, backed by an extremely tight-sounding band. It can’t be easy opening for such a massive show, but they smashed it, combining a slick and polished performance with moments of sweet, slightly self-conscious banter. Their set was closed out with “Pretty Good for a Girl Band”. You’re not wrong. I can’t wait to see where their career takes them.
A shout-out to the venue team is necessary here for the deployment of St John’s staff distributing sunscreen. Nobody wants to feel like a day-old rotisserie chicken when you’re trying to enjoy some rock and roll. Mercifully for those of us sitting on the eastern side of the stadium, the sun disappeared behind the venue just in time for the moment we’d all been eagerly anticipating. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there was a significant period when I didn’t think I’d get to see Foo Fighters perform again after the tragic loss of Taylor Hawkins, so it was a very special moment when the stage lights came up and the familiar form of Dave Grohl appeared with his bandmates. A heartbeat later we’re off, launching like an out-of-control tram with a madly grinning driver into a jam-packed set of Foo tunes from across the decades. “All My Life” is delivered with trademark Foo high-octane energy and it sets the tone for the rest of the night. A “very long night” as Mr. Grohl keeps reminding us. Nobody is complaining.
The sound, it must be said, is incredible. I’ve experienced some outdoor gigs, including Foos, where the sound disappears upwards into the ether, or swirls around and pings back at you half a beat later than it should. No such issues tonight. Loud, crisp, and thoroughly delicious. I’d be surprised if large swathes of Melbourne didn’t hear it.
We rolled into “No Son of Mine”, then “Rescued”, before an extended, and excellent, version of “The Pretender”. The Melbourne crowd was one of the best I’ve encountered, so engaged and immersed, and the singalongs were stellar, especially “Times Like These” and “My Hero”. Coming so close to never getting to experience these moments again seemed to add some real poignancy, at least for me, and I don’t know that I’ve ever sung so loudly at a show before. Pure, pure joy.
The Old School fans were treated to gems including “Stacked Actors”, “Breakout”, and “Monkey Wrench”. Old-school Foo is always excellent Foo. They stepped it down a notch for a moment with a beautiful version of “Statues” featuring Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee supporting Dave Grohl and his electric acoustic. The harmonies in particular were heavenly. Immediately after Dave played “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners”. Watching his guitar work was almost a masterclass.
One of the most powerful and emotional moments came when Grohl paid tribute to Taylor Hawkins, mentioning how he always thinks of him, especially when he sees birds. As the opening notes to Hawkin’s favourite Foo track, “Aurora”, was played, a flock of birds rose over the northern end of AAMI Park, circling over the full length of the crowd toward the stage, then peeling away and disappearing before the vocals kicked in. It was either a hell of a coincidence or some sort of cosmic confluence, but oh boy, it packed a punch. There were muted cries from parts of the crowd who saw it, fingers pointing to the sky, and it’s one of those profound things that burn themselves into your consciousness. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
It was also our introduction to new Foo drummer, Josh Freese. Holy moly, the guy can play, which is no surprise given his pedigree – Devo, Guns ‘n’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer…on and on the list goes. The drum solos were blistering. Hotter than fifty hot things. We even debuted a new chant for him tonight – The Freese. Imagine about 40,000 people emitting a long and low “Freeeeeeeeeeeeese” and you’re pretty much there. I hope it catches on.
The main set was finished with another epic singalong, this time to “Best of You” before the band took their leave. It seemed nobody wanted the show to be over, with phone lights slowly bringing the stadium from near-darkness into bright light, and remnants of the singalong returned in an attempt to lure the Foos back onstage for just a little bit more. They eventually reappeared, Grohl resplendent with a double-necked guitar, and gave us “The Teacher”, complete with captivating visuals. Too soon, if you can call three hours too soon, it was time for the final song of the night and time for one more singalong. “Everlong” had us belting the words out on a perfect Melbourne night at a perfect Foo Fighters gig.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Foo Fighters were reviewed at AAMI Park on Monday 4th December 2023.
Foo Fighters play another show at AAMI Park on Wednesday 6 December before heading to Sydney, Brisbane, and New Zealand. Full tour information can be found HERE.
Photo credit: Brett Schewitz