“I didn’t think there was gonna be hecklers!” Dave Grohl jokes to the jovially rowdy audience at the Savoy Theatre tonight, one indecipherable fan having interrupted proceedings. “I’m going back to the stadiums!” The Foo Fighters frontman might have become a dab hand at rocking the world’s biggest venues over the last two decades, but this is something else entirely: a one-man show in an intimate, 1100-capacity space that sees him recount his life story – with thrilling musical interludes – in support of his new book, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.
- READ MORE: Foo Fighters announce 2022 UK stadium run: “We’re playing like every show could be the last”
This Boss did it with the hugely successful Springsteen on Broadway and, as we learn throughout this two-and-a-half-hour talkathon, which is by turns moving, amusing and regularly awe-inspiring, our Dave relishes a challenge. He opens by playing a guitar along to The Beatles’ ‘Eight Days A Week’ cross-legged on the floor, explaining that this is how his first stirrings of musicianship manifested, before – aided by a slideshow of family photos and snapshots from his unbelievable career – leading us to superstardom from his childhood in suburban Springfield, Virginia. Aside from a few minor technical hitches (first night hiccups with the projector and his “Phil Collins” ear mic), it’s a seamless narrative.
He reveals how this self-proclaimed “mischievous, hyperactive fucking nightmare” found his way into the local punk scene, where he became the teenage drummer for neighbourhood legends Scream. The journey there provides some of the evening’s most fascinating recollections, as Grohl navigates his parents’ divorce, his mother’s endless support and a complex relationship with his father, a “brilliant writer” who had reservations – to say the least – about his son’s embrace of punk rock.
The catalyst for young Grohl’s punk awakening, it transpires, was a family friend named Tracy, a “fucking superhero” with a killer collection of Xerox-sleeved, “hand-made” alternative records. When Tracey dragged young Dave along to a “hole in the wall” to see the scratty Chicago punk band Naked Raygun, he began to suspect that there was more to rock’n’roll than KISS. Grohl presents this an epochal moment, his punk ‘Rosebud’.
Similarly fascinating – if, inevitably, much more poignant – is Grohl’s account of Nirvana’s ascent; how a phone call to the band, who were on the look-out for a new drummer, changed his life forever, along with the lives of millions of music fans. He addresses Kurt Cobain’s suicide in a heartbreakingly raw manner, the houselights fading to black, drawing intense focus to a black-and-white photo of the late frontman. Grohl, for once in an evening packed with anecdotes and witticisms, has no words. “There are some people in life that you emotionally prepare yourself to lose,” he eventually notes. “Like some sort of defence mechanism… But it doesn’t work. It never works.”
With the rest of the show, he recounts how he picked up the pieces, building Foo Fighters from a solo demo tape into a world-conquering stadium rock band who have sold more than 30 million records, headlined Glastonbury and been inducted into the Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame in their own right. Key to Grohl’s success is his eagerness to please an audience; tonight he sensationally drums along to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, performs acoustic versions of ‘This Is A Call’, ‘My Hero’, ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Best Of You’ and ‘Everlong’, and shares a photo of him setting his own bum on fire in the studio for ‘In Utero’, proving his silly streak endured even throughout the sessions for “Nirvana’s darkest record”.
The closest thing to edge arrives when Grohl nods to the famous ‘Nevermind’ album artwork. “Don’t you love that cover?” he chuckles, to applause, but doesn’t mention mention the recent lawsuit launched by its star, Spencer Elden, who claims he has sustained “lifelong damages” as a result of being the world’s most famous naked baby. For the most part, though, this is a cuddly account of the rise and rise of an international treasure who performed at Obama’s White House but found true validation when his father, who sadly died in 2014, praised his writing style in their email correspondence.
The upshot of that coveted endorsement began life in lockdown as the Instagram account @davetruestories, before becoming The Storyteller and this accompanying short spoken-word tour (there’ll be four more dates in the US).
At the start of the show, Grohl explained that his birth was overseen by rookie student doctors, who applauded his arrival. Being born to applause, he says, “fucked me up for life.” That’s far from true, of course, and as he alludes to a Broadway run of this warm, engaging and revealing account of life in not one but two of the biggest rock bands of all time – and with the small matter of a 2022 Foo Fighters stadium tour coming up – it becomes clear that there’s still, even after all these years, plenty more where that came from.