Grohl and co reign supreme, as Monsters Of Rock set alight The Strokes’ skinnny ties
Despite the millions of albums he’s sold, despite the magazine covers he and his cocaine-white teeth have featured on, despite the countless gold and platinum discs he thumped the tubs for or screamed and crooned over, it’s always nice to see a rock star look amazed. This evening there are 85,000 people staring back at Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t quite believe it. “When they asked us to play Hyde Park I was, like, ‘Wait! Isn’t that place huge?’” he says. “But I thought, ‘Well if we get 30,000 people, it’ll still be the biggest show we’ve ever played.’”
If you needed proof of the enduring appeal of Foo Fighters, sometimes perceived as nothing more than an “ordinary band”, then look no further. But first, we’ve support band (support band!) Motörhead to entertain us – a group who’ve never really needed to fear the ‘ordinary’ tag. Lemmy once said that if Motörhead moved in next door to you, your lawn would die. Today, at 6.15pm, the (barely) Living Legend strides onstage wearing black sunglasses and a black shirt, holding a Rickenbacker bass and smoking a Marlboro red. He drinks his Jack Daniel’s neat and dyes his hair. Ask yourself this – are you going to be as cool as this when you’re in your sixties? Thought not. The first song Motörhead play today is called ‘Doctor Rock’, and the last song they play (‘Overkill’) begins with the lyric, “The only way to feel the noise is when it’s good and loud”. The Zutons, this ain’t. Toward the end they throw in ‘Ace Of Spades’, the one song that everyone likes, and the park goes insane.
Like all great stadium acts, Foo Fighters use such an incendiary warm-up as a marker – not of what they’ve got to match, but of what they’ve got to beat. And during their set, you become truly amazed by how many songs you know – songs as irresistibly cute and immediate as ‘Breakout’, ‘All My Life’, ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘Best Of You’ and ‘Learn To Fly’. They pull Lemmy up for a run-through of ‘Shake Your Blood’ (from Grohl’s metal side-project, Probot) and, bizarrely, Queen’s Roger Taylor for a climactic shakedown of ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. At a blush over 90 minutes the set might be a touch short, but in terms of intensity Foo Fighters have got this thing down pat.
When they hit Manchester for the following night’s show, they’re even more geed up. Sadly, The Strokes’ support slot doesn’t contain any of Motörhead’s feral force. “Tell us who you are then,” heckles one fool in a bucket-hat to NME’s left as the band saunter onstage. Judging by the gentle ripples of applause that greet openers ‘Heart In A Cage’ and ‘Red Light’, most of the crowd have mistakenly turned up expecting to hear the creak of leather on willow rather than witness two of rock’s heavyweights slugging it out. Not that it’s really a fair fight; for most of The Strokes’ set the PA sounds as though it’s been fed through the murky ship canal nearby, leaving Nick Valensi’s metal solos on the tracks plucked from ‘First Impressions Of Earth’ sounding distinctly blunted and Jules’ vocals far too low in the mix.
They don’t seem overly vexed, instead delivering a set of typical poise, verve and controlled passion. “Let the good times roll,” deadpans Jules before a thunderous ‘Vision Of Division’ sees them overcome the technical glitches, while a rasping ‘Last Nite’ sees the front form a moshpit. Job done, they depart with the traditional ‘Take It Or Leave It’ and with Jules promising us the Foos will “melt our faces off”.
Which is more likely now those roadie wags have retrieved the amp cables from the canal – where The Strokes sounded murky, Foo Fighters, resplendent with fireworks, lasers and five-minute Led-Zep drum solos, are mighty; where Jules was sullen, barely raising his voice above a mumble, Dave Grohl is in invincible stadium-cliché mode, insisting that last night’s Hyde Park outing with Queen “sucked”, indulging in massive guitar masturbation on a huge ramp, stretching out into the crowd, and even offering to buy everyone a drink. Oh, and they also find time to rattle out a career-spanning greatest hits karaoke set – from ‘Everlong’ to a brilliantly raging ‘Stacked Actors’ – that’s impossible not to get swept along by. Biggest band on the planet? Very possibly. Face-melting? Maybe not. Heart-swelling? Without a doubt.
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Ian Winwood/Rick Martin