It was 25 years ago today, Foo Fighters made the journey to UK soil for the very first time, playing the King’s College London Students Union on Saturday June 3, 1995.
Just £7 would get you in to see Dave Grohl’s first appearance on a stage in Britain since Nirvana‘s legendary 1992 headline set at Reading Festival – and a month before the Foos’ debut album was unleashed into the world.
Here’s what NME’s Keith Cameron thought of the gig in NME’s original review from way-back-when, along with a bootleg recording and the show’s full setlist.
Foo Fighters, King’s College London Students Union
True, the fact that the hall is christened “Tutu’s” is something of a giveaway, as indeed are the alarmingly generous bar tariffs. But if this quaintly named group of transatlantic insurgents harboured any lingering doubts as regards the identity of their hosts, they were dashed the minute our wicked in-house DJ segues the global smash by renowned grunge pioneers Bush into ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, a minor hit years back for grasping opportunists Nirvana… only to abort the latter after its laughably generic intro. Ha!
Yes, in a testament either to their supreme self-confidence or utter foolhardiness, Foo Fighters are making their UK live debut on a Saturday night in a venue run for and by people currently engaged in further education. Also palpably beyond doubt, is a tangy sense of anticipation. While this is certainly partly because of the lead singer’s illustrious tour of duty as drummer in the most important rock band of the decade, the capital’s bush telegraph had been fizzing into action for the previous seven days, aglow with advance reports suggesting that all previous advance reports were true enough: preconceptions would have to be left at the door. The boy could play.
Indeed, late on Friday afternoon a rumour flew that there would be a surprise, unannounced and very special guest opening up for Teenage Fanclub that evening; cue a clutch of credulous punters staring sadly at the lame bar-room histrionics of the Goo Goo Dolls. Goo, Foo… maybe this was all a huge student rag week jape. Maybe The Boo Radleys would walk onstage at Tutu’s and proclaim their support for the imminent grunge revival.
But, just as waves of delirium begin to cloud the mind, the onstage presence of Nirvana’s roadie extraordinaire and one-time extra guitarist Big John Duncan lends reassurance. Then Dave Grohl appears, followed by fellow ex-Nirvana man Pat Smear plus drummer William Goldsmith and bassist Nate Mendel, both on leave from Sub Pop hopefuls Sunny Day Real Estate. Grohl gives a quick grin, a little nod, and there goes ‘This Is A Call’, the riffed-up sap-happy pop marvel that you might as well now concede is destined to be one of the singles of the year. It feels that simple.
This threatened to be an emotionally-charged occasion, considering that the last time anyone present could have seen Dave Grohl on a British stage was nearly three years earlier, at the Reading Festival. On that occasion Nirvana had blitzed the sense of impending gloom with an incandescent performance, and now the Foo Fighters dispel a different set of mixed emotions with a performance of nonchalant brilliance.
Commendably, Dave dispels the biggest rumour before it’s even really begun. “None of the songs are about Kurt,” he firmly states, as ‘This Is A Call”s emphatically groovy coda still echoes through the brain. “I wouldn’t even embarrass him like that.” It’s the right thing to say. This is, you’ll appreciate, a sweet, decent guy.
Who just so happens to be a fine songwriter with a pleasing high-registered vocal and a capable guitarist… er, as well as an awesome drummer. On the album Dave plays everything, but here his pals make for a chanceless live unit. Smear looks cool with his Collymore-esque blond crop and, on this form, he probably could have had more goal-scoring chances than England’s latest prodigal footballing son. Late-period Nirvana live footage gave the impression that he was having more fun than anyone else, so it’s no surprise to see him grinning widely at the mosh-happy teenies down front. His manic chops give these alternately splenetic and calm songs vital reserves of ballast, while the Real Estate boys don’t put a foot wrong. No wonder Dave looks so relaxed.
Or, at least, as relaxed as anyone pogoing and headbanging their way through these ridiculously catchy songs can. The premise is basic and true: in spite of their many alleged offspring (ahem), virtually no other band of the post-Nirvana generation has munched on the virile pop seed from which sprang that band’s genius. Most ignored The Beatles and went straight to Black Sabbath. Now the Foo Fighters join the already legendary Rocket From The Crypt as spiritual allies, perpetrators of that unique adrenalised thrill that comes only from the shotgun marriage of speed, volume and the sweetest melodies on Earth.
They close with the nagging, drawn-out deluge of ‘Exhausted’, and Dave says we’ll see them again in the summer. No dramas, no crises. The Foo Fighters depart and the world continues essentially unmoved from its axis. But listen hard – that’s one hell of a tune it’s whistling.
By Keith Cameron
Foo Fighters played:
This Is A Call
I’ll Stick Around
Winnebago (Late! cover)
For All The Cows
Alone + Easy Target