Foo Fighters returned to the UK for two shows at Milton Keynes Bowl this weekend – their first in the country since a broken leg forced Dave Grohl to pull dates at Wembley, Glastonbury and more. Here’s five big questions that loomed over their set answered…
Does Dave’s throne steal the show?
It damn well tries. As hard as Dave Grohl seat-rocks like a champion as the Foo Fighters raged into an opening ‘Everlong’, his “awesome throne” with its ruff of guitar necks and crown of spinning lights is the real show-stopper, framing him like some kind of Ming The Riffulous or motoring him down the ego ramp like a post-grunge Davros, king of the Daleks. To upstage it, Dave has only one move. “I’m getting better!” he cries as ‘Monkey Wrench’ reaches its peak, “I’m gonna dance with you!” And he stands up. To the greatest reception of his life, Dave Grohl stands up. For 10 seconds. Pandemonium.
Do they, as promised, “rock a lot”?
They damn well try. Blazing through hits like Vin Diesel through red lights, in the first 20 minutes they knock out a febrile ‘Learn To Fly’, a savage ‘The Pretender’ and an Eagles Of Pop Metal take on ‘Something From Nothing’ that proves Grohl’s ‘Sonic Highways’ tour of America’s recording studio heritage has left rootsy traces on his flight cases. If they didn’t pause for Grohl to apologise for “taking so long” to make up for cancelling his UK shows in June and to thank his crew for building his throne with a smartphone-lit twinkle through a stripped-back solo ‘Big Me’, you’d think they were going to thrash til dawn.
Do they do anything nice and special?
“We didn’t plan anything nice and special,” Dave explains, “something nice and special just happened.” And on troop Queen’s Roger Taylor and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones to form what Dave calls “a super-dupergroup” on a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’, Hawkins taking lead vocals as the Foos, Dave admits, “live out our fantasy right here in front of you”. This early in the set, however, it feels like opening your big present first.
Can Grohl keep the pace?
Grohl can, the rest of us are tested. The Foos pay the price for that early torrent of hits and ‘Everlong’ becomes a premonition. After a mid-set one-two of ‘All My Life’ and ‘Times Like These’ they’ve blown most of their wad of pop-metal classics and the second half of the set slips into indulgence. Grohl is undoubtedly a grandmaster of making hard rock accessibly melodic, but taking to his glorified stool seems to have turned his head tradwards, as vampiric-country latest single ‘Outside’ grows a lengthy blues workout that sends the most frostbitten fans scurrying for the car parks early. There are treats for the “old school Foo Fighters fans” – ‘Breakout’, ‘This Is A Call’, a rare run through ‘DOA’ – but also slushy, arpeggiated fare such as ‘Aurora’ that provide as punchy a finish as a jellyfish fist-fight.
Was it worth the wait?
A mammoth singalong on the final ‘Best Of You’ wins over the waverers and a nose-diving night ends on a high. It’s been a tale of rampant rock fortitude winning out over the foul slingshots of fortune but, as Grohl tests his footing as a sit-down superstar, there are inevitably limps.