The choruses are big, but is the formula starting to wear a little thin? Manchester Stadium (June 2)
s a marker of their brilliant renewal, tonight’s opening slot launches
the delayed second summer of The Futureheads. Back with a bang,
the newer likes of ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’ and ‘Radio Heart’ actually outstrip ‘Hounds Of Love’. Earlier this afternoon,
Grohl made his now-customary hello-trip to the ’Heads’ dressing room. It’s his thing now, though as David Hyde points out, “It’s only actually common decency.” A good point: could Grohl’s well-oiled nice-guy reputation only stand out because most other rock stars on that level are insufferable dickweeds?
Anyway. Post-Godlike Genius, Manic Street Preachers prove two things. Firstly that ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ will always
be crap, whichever way you approach it, and second, that of the many cloudbursting arena-slaying anthems they’ve written, the latterday ‘Autumnsong’ is very, very close to the best. It would have been the set’s highlight were it not for the fact that ‘Motown Junk’ will always be the ace in their pack. “Who came to see us at the Boardwalk in 1991?” asks James Dean Bradfield. Probably about as many as watched The Great Unmentionable that same year.
See, it’s testament to Dave Grohl’s victory that the shadow of The Other Band simply doesn’t exist any more. These people have come to throw themselves at the feet of King Dave, the sort of rock star you can build a life with. No death and no danger. The sort of family man who uses the jam bit in ‘This Is A Call’ to walk down the runway and kiss his daughter on the cheek, making sure to point the screen cameras in her direction just so we know she’s wearing some industrial strength protective earmuffs. This is the kind of rock show that’s safe for children.
But since we have serious words for King Dave later on, let’s look at the good bits.
The opening four-song volley represents a barrage of unifying aceness to rival the opening of the McCartney show that Grohl guested at in Liverpool the day before. Despite his continuing and maddening insistence on playing it solo, ‘Everlong’ remains one of the most inspirational rock songs ever written. ‘Monkey Wrench’, which follows, is very, very nearly as good. ‘Big Me’ is a heady reminder that there’s more to this band than mainlined testosterone. The ‘Cold Day In The Sun’ segment, where Grohl proposes that every Monday in Manchester be declared ‘Taylor Hawkins Day’ is a stupendous comic moment. ‘Best Of You’ is an even better opening to a show than it used to be.
Foo Fighters, though, find themselves in
a strange old place at the moment. Much as ‘The Pretender’ might have revitalised them, the new songs here – ‘Long Road To Ruin’, ‘Cheer Up Boys (Your Make-Up Is Running)’ – sound pretty much interchangeable with any of the other songs from the last 10 years. And here’s the thing: it’s been Grohl’s mission to become the world’s biggest rocker, and he’s achieved it. The past is now exorcised to such an extent that the spiteful, Courtney-baiting ‘Stacked Actors’ actually jars tonight. It’s
a massively impressive spectacle, but as Grohl intones during one of his many manly motivational outbursts, “There’s more of you Manchesters than there’s ever been before!”
This is critical mass for this phase of Foo Fighters. What Grohl needs to do now if he wants to keep his place among the pantheon of gods, is go away for a while; remodel his legend and regain his mystique. Dick about for a bit with Probot-like projects. Heck, maybe even go back and play with the Queens. And when he does bring Foo Fighters back, bring them back in a different shape. Sure, there’s almost 50,000 hyperactively satisfied customers leaving tonight, but hoik this show round the world any more and what’s starting to feel like overexposure now will become full-on (heavy) metal fatigue. Don’t let it happen, Dave!