Foo Fighters Live at the Milton Keynes Bowl

Straight off the back of their hotly anticipated seventh studio album, Wasting Light, The Foo Fighters managed to sell-out the 65,000 capacity Milton Keynes National Bowl. Twice! The two-night summer extravaganza saw the American alternative-rock act draft in a range of support acts (different for each day) as well as a variety of special guests. More on that later…

So the Foo Fighters have now been going for a grand total of 16 years. Boy, that makes me feel very old.  There is something in me that will always see Dave Grohl as Nirvana’s drummer. As a massive Nirvana fan in the early 90’s, those images of a youthful sweaty Dave Grohl banging the drums with his previous band are sacred in my mind. That is in no way to say that I disprove of his after-Cobain activities, you can’t bring the dead back and expecting a band/band members just to roll up and die alongside them is silly. But the Foo’s have always seemed new to me. Which is probably why it has taken me 16 years to see them and their much talked about fantastic live show!

We wanted to arrive early to at least have a shot of getting to the barrier. Well, if I am going to see the Foo’s for the first time, it needs to be done properly! The crowd was a very odd mish-mash of every type of person imaginable. You had everything from heavy-metal heads to orange Primark junkies, to kids in Nirvana T-Shirts who were not even born when Kurt Cobain died. The Foo’s are certainly one of those bands that cross the audience divide in a good way and appease many.

Bob Mould – who found fame in the 1980s with his band Hüsker Dü, and then in the 90’s with Sugar – kept us entertained two hours before the bands kicked off, and whilst the bands were setting up in between each act. Some people recognized him from the recent Foo Fighters documentary Back and Forth, but I think a lot of the crowd just thought he was some random old bloke spinning tunes and doing the most hilarious “dad dance” I have ever seen! However, by the end of his set he left to a fantastic crowd reaction.

The first band to take the stage was Tame Impala. They describe themselves as a “psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock band”. I would describe them as dull and forgettable. For a band given the opportunity to support one of the Worlds most premiere acts, their set lacked passion and they looked depressed. Musically they weren’t too bad, but too much reverb on Kevin Parkers vocals distracted from that. The whole “were going to come on stage in bare feet” thing really is pretentious and quite frankly, I couldn’t wait for their set to end. I hate giving a band a negative review, but they looked as bored to be there as I felt watching from the crowd.

Next up were Death Cab for Cutie. A Seattle band I knew little about. In contrast to Tame Impala, they came out and seemed in awe of the gathered crowd. Their sound lent more towards the indie side of the musical spectrum, but that is no bad thing. What they did, they did well. Singer Ben Gibbard’s vocals were reminiscent of early Brian Moloko from Placebo, although that comparison isn’t as obvious when you listen to the recorded material. The ten-song setlist got the waiting crowds interest and I am sure many people, like me, left the show eager to hear more of their music.

Aaah Biffy Clyro! The band people love to hate. The band people love to love. THAT band who are headlining the Saturday at next weeks Sonisphere festival, which in itself created a fair amount of controversy. And here they are again… determined to bore me to death by the time the summer of 2011 is at an end. Or are they?

Biffy Clyro are one of those bands that I simply don’t care about. I accept they have a few very good songs, and judging by the crowd’s reaction in Buckinghamshire, they come across very well too. Lots of singing along and hand clapping, from me included! But there is just something that niggles me about them. I’m not sure what it is – Is it the stupid name? The fact that all bar one of the members seem unable to put a shirt on? The fact that they have shit tattoos, which wouldn’t be able to distract me IF they wore a shirt? Is it because Simon Neil plays his guitar too high up on his body? Trust me, I’ve wondered what it is about this band that rubs me up the wrong way. I am still none the wiser. Musically, I shall have to accept that although they bore me to tears with ‘meh-ness’ and do nothing at all to interact with the crowd, they do have some corking tunes. I also must hesitantly admit that they sound fab in the early evening summer sun.

Kicking off with Captain and rattling through other hits such as Who’s got a Match and Living is a Problem because Everything Dies certainly woke the crowd up in preparation for the Foo Fighters. A new song was previewed which seemed to fit in perfectly with the rest of the set. Then it was time for Many of Horror and Mountains. Probably the two songs I am most familiar with, and probably the two songs I like least from their back catalog. However, I sung along and waved my arms and gave my best attempt of seeing the something in this band that so many others do.

Then it was time for the main event.

You get the impression from the Foo Fighters that they genuinely love what they do. That, if they could be anywhere in the World that they would choose to be right where they are now. After 16 years to keep that level of enthusiasm up is some feat.

Bridge Burning begins tonight’s show. Given how new Wasting Light is, it’s encouraging to see so many people in the crowd singing along to every word. Rope follows and then it’s the gentle intro to the crowd erupting Pretender.  Then it was hit after hit – My Hero, Learn to Fly, White Limo. It does make you realise just what a phenomenal back catalog this band have in their repertoire. Arlandria is my favorite song off the latest album and goes down as well as I hoped in a live environment. Lots of fist pumping and devil horns ensure that this is a future classic. Break Out expectantly gets the crowd jumping, and Dave Grohl allows the crowd to contribute. One thing is sure; Mr. Grohl is an absolutely amazing front man. One can’t help but think he would have been wasted just sat behind the drums in Nirvana. His overflowing personality is captivating. Much like Taylor Hawkins (drummer) who leaves his drum stool for a shot at singing Cold Day in the Sun, whilst special guest Roger Taylor (Queen) steps in on drums. Long Road to Ruin, Stacked Actors and Walk were all as fantastic as you’d expect (I’m running out of ways to say fucking awesome here!!). Bob Mould joined the band for Dear Rosemary, as he does on the album. This time playing guitar instead of mixing it up on the “deckz”. Monkey Wrench… Again, spectacular. The crowd taking over from Grohls “shouty bit”, before he dived right into it and gave us the screaming that we love on that song.

Let it Die and Generator led on to Best of You, where the crowd continued “Woaaah-ing and Aaaaah-ing” long after the song had finished (prompting Dave Grohl to say “we do have other songs you know!”). Skin and Bones slowed the tempo down enough for All my Life to have the impact intended. Crazy good!

The band left the stage and we were treated to a clip of them on the screens teasing us over how many more songs they should do. The genuine chemistry in the band is their strength. They are all clearly enjoying every second of their lives!

Dave re emerged with a beautiful acoustic version of Wheels, which lead into Times Like These. Emotional to say the least!

A Mose Allison cover of Young Man Blues led to the biggest surprise of the night. They said they had some special guests for us, and we’d already had Roger Taylor and Bob Mould. I don’t think anyone expected horror-rock legend Alice Cooper to join the Foo’s on stage. Schools Out and I’m Eighteen performed with Alice on vocals was an unexpected treat, and something that I will simply never forget!

Everlong ended the night’s proceedings and after playing 25 songs and for over 2 hours the Foo Fighters left the stage.

Bloody mind-blowing show.

Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a faultless performance, but that is part of the appeal of the Foo Fighters. They are a rock band. They hit bum notes and screw up, but none of that matters because the overall package is unmistakably awesome, Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters show us life is worth living to the fullest.

Here’s to the next 16 years!