in performance: foo fighters/the struts

Dave Grohl performing with Foo Fighters last night at Rupp Arena. Photo by Matt Goins.

“Sorry we’re late. My bad.”

That was the succinct apology Dave Grohl offered over 14,000 patrons near the midway point of Foo Fighters’ tireless and exuberant 2 ½ hour performance last night at Rupp Arena.

The tardiness, of course, was a nearly seven month postponement of the concert due to a family emergency. But Grohl and company more than made up for lost time with a show built around rock ‘n’ roll essentials – specifically, punkish immediacy, arena rock expansiveness and a hefty dose of good humor.

It’s easy with the kind of amiable profile possessed by the current six-member lineup of Foo Fighters to overlook just how in charge of the proceedings Grohl really is. The concert began with a live, offstage guitar squall before he entered alone with a mad dash around the front lip of the stage. This continued as the other members were still getting situated. Even when everything coalesced into the furious grind of “Run,” from the Foos’ most recent album “Concrete and Gold,” you sensed the rest of the band was still getting into the groove that Grohl was already running away with.

That was largely how the bulk of the program played out. Only longtime Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins, at times, was allowed the kind of room to roam that Grohl luxuriated in. Indeed, some of the concert’s strongest moments revolved around numerous exchanges between the two players, from the rumbling jam that grew out of “Rope” to the sparring that surfaced from the impressive group dynamics of “My Hero” to a duel that capped off a playfully riotous “Breakout.”

Mostly, though, Grohl and the Foos established themselves as a band of the moment. The recorded versions of the songs offered last night proved to be mere blueprints of what ignited onstage. The anthemic “Walk,” one of two tunes pulled from 2011’s “Wasting Light” album, was built largely around elemental riffs. But the front line guitar team of Grohl, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear gave such a basic fabric a huge, spacious framework. “The Pretender,” however, was just loose enough in construction for the band to take their time and peel back its post grunge exterior so more rootsy intimations could flourish.

Aside from an extended drum feature from Hawkins, this wasn’t a program that flaunted instrumental solos. Grohl was obviously more taken with mood, namely the kind of jovial spirit summoned from rock ‘n’ roll basics, than technique. Sure, he could scream and hammer out the riffs with ample energy. But he was obviously after the fun element too, an aspect that boiled over late in the program during a set of covers that included snippets of the “Grease” hit “You’re the One That I Want,” a version of the Van Halen staple “Jump” played to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and a respectful take on the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure.” The latter sent Grohl to the drum kit and left vocal chores to Hawkins and Luke Spiller, whose opening set with the Brit band The Struts was consumed with early ‘70s glam rock. Imagine the forgotten band Slade had Freddie Mercury been hired as singer. That was the vibe.

As a footnote to the evening, Grohl also revealed the cause of the family emergency that prompted the concert’s postponement from last fall – an illness that sidelined his mother. He didn’t elaborate.

“There’s only one thing I love more than the Foo Fighters,” he told the crowd. “And that’s my mama.”



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