Dig up the grounds of Reading Festival and you’ll practically find Dave Grohl’s DNA buried in the earth. This is, after all, the festival where Nirvana broke grunge in 1991. They returned only a year later to deliver the most famous set in almost 50 years at Little John’s Farm.
And so to Foo Fighters, whose history at Reading is the stuff of legend too. Last week, Grohl told NME how their 1995 debut on the second stage almost saw them being bumped up to the top spot. They declined, but the decision would ultimately see them right – tonight sees the Foos headline Reading for the fourth time.
While other bands could, and definitely have, treated Reading as another perfunctory stop on the touring schedule, there’s no such chance with Foo Fighters. Instead, this is a band indebted to Reading and they’ll be damned if they don’t reflect that.
‘The Pretender’, for instance, is the perfect opening song for a band that are steadfastly refusing to sit on their laurels. Pits erupt immediately, as Reading once again falls under Grohl’s spell.
The heritage of Reading also comes to the fore once more as ‘Run’ features early on – with an emotional tribute to the late, and great, Keith Flint. “This one goes to Keith from the Prodigy”, says Grohl. “They played here in 2009 and it was the craziest shit I’ve ever seen.”
- Read more: Dave Grohl on Nirvana, Queens Of The Stone Age, Foo Fighters and his love affair with Reading and Leeds
It’s not the only nod to British icons that we get. The drums skins of Taylor Hawkins are proudly emblazoned with the faces of Liam and Noel Gallagher. “One of these days we’ll get Oasis back. One of these days,” Hawkins tells the Reading crowd, after Grohl takes over on the drums for a rendition of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’.
“We’re trying,” Grohl quips back.
Another British star also gets their chance to shine late on – even if it’s likely to be the only time he’ll play Reading. Enter Rick Astley, having firmly installed himself as Grohl’s new best mate. After their dress rehearsal at Club NME last week, a rickroll to 80,000 people proves the most surreal moment of the night.
“Rick Astley’s got balls the size of the London Eye and that’s why I love him,” Grohl says of his new friend.
Showmanship aside, the Foos also live up to their promise of taking it back to their earliest days – rare outings for ‘Hey, Johnny Park!’, ‘For All The Cows’ and ‘I’ll Stick Around’ are a treat for old school fans – and yet another sign that this isn’t just another Foo Fighters show.
And herein lies the simple trick of Foo Fighters – they don’t take anything for granted. It’s the reason why they find themselves at Reading’s top table for the fourth time. As fireworks blast into the night sky while ‘Everlong’ closes the set, you sense that a fifth time is an inevitability. We’ll see you there.
Foo Fighters’ setlist was:
Learn To Fly
The Sky Is A Neighbourhood
Times Like These
La Dee Da
Crazy Train/Ziggy Stardust
All My Life
I’ll Stick Around
Hey, Johnny Park!
Never Gonna Give You Up
Best of You
For All The Cows
This Is A Call
Let There Be Rock