Both active founding members of Queen – lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor – joined the Foo Fighters to perform a five-song set of their own hits at the first Taylor Hawkins tribute concert.
The special gig – which took place at Wembley Stadium last night (September 3) and was simulcast all over the web, TV and streaming platforms – honoured the late Foos drummer with performances from Liam Gallagher, Mark Ronson, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Supergrass, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, Blink-182’s Travis Barker, Kesha, and more.
The Queen/Foos supergroup were introduced with archival footage of Hawkins himself, who welcomed Roger Taylor out at one of the Foos own shows before he passed. Hawkins was a noted superfan of the British rock icons, and Foos sets would often see the drummer take over from Dave Grohl to perform lead vocals on a cover of ‘Somebody To Love’.
“When I was 10 years old, my older sister took me to go see Queen in concert – the first concert I ever saw – and I watched the fucking drummer, and I said, ‘I wanna fucking be him, I wanna do that’,” Hawkins says in the archival clip screened at last night’s concert, after hyping the crowd up with his imitation of Freddie Mercury’s famous “ay-oh” chant.
The set itself began with a cover of Queen’s 1977 hit ‘We Will Rock You’, for which Taylor was joined on drums by his son Rufus, and Luke Spiller of The Struts sang lead vocals. With Taylor on vocals, they moved on to 1975’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car’, before welcoming out The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins to sing on the 1981 classic ‘Under Pressure’.
Next up in the setlist was ‘Somebody To Love’, for which Sam Ryder took over the mic. Introducing him, Grohl explained that, since Hawkins would always cover the song on vocals during the Foos’ own sets, it was particularly challenging to find the right vocalist for last night’s tribute.
“It might have been Roger that had this idea,” he said. “Roger showed us a clip of someone singing along to this next song, and we made one phone call, and within 20 minutes, this person told us that he would come here tonight to sing it with us.”
Rounding out the set, May delivered an acoustic performance of 1975’s ‘Love Of My Life’. Before playing the song, May told the crowd: “I did not write this song, it was written by a young boy called Freddie Mercury. And in 1986, we were on this exact spot, singing this song together.
“And in 1992, exactly 30 years ago, we said goodbye to Freddie in a style similar to this – so I know that Freddie would be very happy to use this song to honour Taylor Hawkins. But here’s the deal: I don’t sing this song, we all sing this song together.”
Have a look at the full Foos/Queen performance below:
Queen and Foo Fighters played:
1. ‘We Will Rock You’ (with Luke Spiller of The Struts)
2. ‘I’m In Love With My Car’
3. ‘Under Pressure’ (with Justin Hawkins of The Darkness)
4. ‘Somebody To Love’ (with Sam Ryder)
5. ‘Love Of My Life’ (Brian May performing solo)
Grohl and Hawkins’ Foo Fighter bandmates opened the concert with an emotional speech that paid tribute to their late drummer. “For those of you who knew him personally, you know that no one else could make you smile, or laugh, or dance, or sing like he could,” the frontman said.
Comedian Dave Chappelle also recalled spending time with the rock star and his son in New York. “I’ve seen Taylor be a rock star many nights but it was my first time seeing him be a dad, and what a cool fucking dad,” he said. “Taylor Hawkins is a legend of a man, he’s a legend of a musician and he’s a legend of a father.”
Liam Gallagher kicked off the live music today, performing two Oasis songs with the help of the surviving members of Foo Fighters, while the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith shared a heartwarming story about Hawkins in a special video message.
Grohl’s 16-year-old daughter Violet also took to the stage to cover two Jeff Buckley songs at the show, before Grohl’s supergroup Them Crooked Vultures reunited for the first time in 12 years. Supergrass also performed, with the trio recalling a tour they did with the Foos and Hawkins in the ’90s.
Elsewhere in the show, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson joined forces to perform a pair of the latter band’s hits – ‘Back In Black’ and ‘Let There Be Rock’ – following Violet’s return to cover The Zutons’ ‘Valerie’ with Ronson, The Living End’s Chris Cheney and Jason Falkner.
Foo Fighters closed out the night with a star-studded set that features a revolving cast of drummers, including Travis Barker, Nandi Bushell, and Hawkins’ 16-year-old son Shane. Paul McCartney also joined the group onstage, delivering a performance of two Beatles songs.