“For the past two fucking years, I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for these motherfuckers to open up your border,” Dave Grohl tells the 30,000-strong audience at Foo Fighters’ first show in Australia since 2018.
“I thought we were going to play some fucking theatre, some little club or something like that – but because this is fucking Australia, here we are in a fucking stadium tonight. We fucking miss you people so much, I am so fucking happy to be here.”
Australia has been waiting years for this. Announced just last week to feverish anticipation, this sold-out show in the regional Victorian city of Geelong is the first full-capacity stadium rock show by an international artist Australia’s seen since 2020. After this gig the Foos will not stick around to play the rest of the country – though, as they reveal later, they plan to return in November for a fully fledged tour.
Given the pandemic malaise that’s defined the 2020s thus far, ‘Times Like These’ makes a fitting opener to the set: “It’s times like these you learn to live again / It’s times like these you give and give again,” Grohl croons, dimming the track’s usual biting energy for a more intimate intro. ‘The Pretender’ follows to rapturous acclaim, horns thrust high as Grohl and his cohort thrash away like their lives depend on it.
A pair of new songs thrown into the mix early – ‘No Son Of Mine’ from last year’s ‘Medicine At Midnight’ and ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ from 2017’s ‘Concrete And Gold’ – earn virtually no reaction from the crowd, but they’re still played with meteoric aplomb. Regardless of their reception, the Foos give their more recent cuts the same love and respect as their biggest hits, all adorned with lengthy drum and guitar solos, second and sometimes third bridges, and downright explosive crescendos.
All 20 tracks on the setlist are treated like the classics they either are or will become, each one delivered with dazzling flourishes not present on the records: On ‘The Pretender’ Grohl and lead guitarist Chris Shiflett duel it out with a ferocious double-solo, while an extended passage of riffing on ‘Best Of You’ recalls the Foos’ emo-adjacent origins.
At the core of the Foos’ two-and-a-half hour set is an instinctive theatricality. After playing these songs nigh-on thousands of times, they’ve got them all nailed down to a T, each beat walloping and each lick soaring – they’re unashamedly over-the-top in their performance, but it’s testament to the Foos’ inimitable artistry that even when three-minute songs are blown out to epics that go past the 10-minute mark, it never feels excessive or boastful.
Even the two cover songs that punctuate the set’s second half – a crunchy take on the Bee Gees’ 1976 hit ‘You Should Be Dancing’ (performed under a glittering disco ball as their campy alter ego, the Dee Gees), and a spellbinding spin on ‘Somebody To Love’ by Queen, for which Hawkins and Grohl swap roles – are unequivocal highlights.
As the night starts to wind up, the Foos pluck a rarity from their catalogue, playing the severely underrated ‘Big Me’ for the second time in the last three years. Reinvented as a soulful, tearjerking ballad, ‘Big Me’ is dedicated to Australia, where they filmed its music video in 1996.
We end on the one-two punch of ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘Everlong’, the latter introduced with a poignant speech honouring the late Michael Gudinski. The Foos dominate the Australian mainstream today partly thanks to the Australian label owner, promoter and music industry legend, whose face is emblazoned on Hawkins’ bass drum this evening. “I never understood one word that motherfucker said,” Grohl says fondly of Gudinski, “but I do know that he was full of love”. The band close out with a mesmerising display of fireworks while Gudinski’s image is beamed on the screen behind Hawkins.
Hobbling out of the stadium, it’s hard not to feel like we’ve just witnessed an historical event. Mother Nature may have brought the rain but the Foos came in even harder with their thunder. November can’t come soon enough.
Foo Fighters played:
‘Times Like These’
‘Learn To Fly’
‘No Son Of Mine’
‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’
‘Medicine At Midnight’
‘You Should Be Dancing’ (Bee Gees cover, performed as Dee Gees)
‘Somebody To Love’ (Queen cover, Grohl on drums and Hawkins on vocals)
‘All My Life’
‘This Is A Call’
‘Best Of You’