Dave Grohl is nothing if not loyal. He has said many times that he owed much of his iconic rock career to nightclubs in his hometown of Washington DC, and now he brought his Foo Fighters to three for local promoter IMP to open or reboot, playing in much, much smaller venues. the band’s usual arena and festival stages. Over the past few years, the band has played their opening concert at the reopened 9:30 Club, the legendary urban venue where Grohl had seen hundreds of bands as a teenager; National anthem; and Tuesday night, the new Atlantis, a state-of-the-art, 450-capacity club built to nearly the same specifications as the original 9:30 on F Street, even a rooftop bar filled with artifacts (park meters from an old club, telephone booth, posters, newspaper stands and more).
For the opening song of their two-and-a-half hour set at Atlantis on Tuesday night, the band nods to this shared past by opening with “At the Atlantis,” a DC hardcore cover of the song. Legendary Bad Brains finished naturally with a guest vocal by Pete Stahl, the singer of Grohl’s pre-Nirvana band the Scream. The group then launched a set of 24 songs, which includes almost all of their hits, as well as a few songs from their upcoming album “But Here We Are”, which will be released on Friday.
But for all the joy and nostalgia of the night, everyone involved was aware that a huge shadow filled the room: It was the band’s fourth concert since the sudden, tragic death of drummer Taylor Hawkins last year. It left some huge shoes to fill, but there was no doubt the band would go on, and they found the perfect new bandmate in seasoned, versatile drummer Josh Freese. Grohl said he played with “a thousand bands” on stage – “about 930 actually”, Freese joked in one of the numerous references to the old club – noting that he played with everyone from the punk band Vandals to the Nine Inch Nails. With Sting, Guns N’ Roses, The Reserves, and countless others (for more on his tough past, go here). “We could’ve been on the list with this son of a bitch and people were like, ‘Now that’s him. Foo Fighters?! How despicable!” Grohl laughed.
Freese brings all this experience and more to his new role as touring drummer (the band’s representatives respectfully declined to say whether he’s a full member yet). His style is adjacent but very different from that of both Hawkins and Grohl (one of the greatest drummers in rock history solely because of his work with Nirvana). Heavy yet fluid, with booming rolls and flamboyant, often glamorous fillings, he respectfully reinterprets many of the band’s older songs while putting his own stamp on them. And it follows Grohl flawlessly—at countless points during the two-and-a-half-hour show, two locked eyes, Grohl’s nod or shrug, a yawn for longer or longer as Freese immediately reflects, or a fading or increasing. , longer, Freese grinds his teeth and creates energetic, complex, slow snare rolls or ornaments, not showing any fatigue for a moment. Wow! when the song is finally over.
Make no mistake, the drums have always been the main instrument in Foo Fighters, and although the drummer is very different, the dynamic remains the same: The musical and visual focus is on Grohl and the drummer behind him, and the former is very clear in exploring the new possibilities offered by the latter.
This is not to say that Hawkins is not sorely missed; While Grohl didn’t mention him until the end of the show, he very clearly does. “It was awkward to get up and show off again,” he said. “I don’t know if you know this, but most of the people we work with have been around for 25, 30 years, so it’s a really big family. This goes for everyone you see here. So coming back here and doing it again… was a journey.
“And I can honestly say we couldn’t do this without you, so thank you so much for helping us heal.” “Not a day goes by that we don’t think about it or talk about it. So this is for T.” The band then started with “Aurora”.
But that was the only bittersweet moment of the night: The rest, as always, was about the joyous debut of rock and roll. The group rose from the small stage with 23 songs throughout their career, along with the spontaneous rendition of Foghat’s 1975 father-rock classic “Slow Ride.” Guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shifflett hammered the power chords, with the former providing punk power (mostly Gibsons) and the latter bringing sophistication (just like Fenders). Bassist Nate Mendel produced powerful, melodic basses, while keyboardist Rami Jaffee did his best to be heard above the riff by playing with wall-mounted equipment due to space constraints (what does a keyboardist need to do in a band of three guitarists?). Grohl’s daughter, Violet, joined the band for a version of “Shame Shame,” and the man himself was in fine vocal form the rest of the night, “blow my balls”, as she so sensitively put it, without hoarseness until morning. end.
Grohl seemed to know about half the audience and spoke directly to many of them throughout the set, making many local references and insider jokes, and even bringing IMP founder/long-time owner Seth Hurwitz onstage to play. drums for a song (it was fine under the circumstances – hey, You Trying to follow Josh Freese). But it summed up the spirit of the early evening on the show.
“The best thing about the original 930 was that it was really inclusive,” he said, “and dumb kids from the suburbs like me could come and see these great, inspiring bands – and most of them were from Washington DC, so was I. It really is one of the music capitals of the country, the world. Think about being. When we were little we used to watch our friends play and our friends would become our heroes and become the bands we wanted to impress.”
And this rock and roll life cycle is something Grohl has basically devoted his entire life to. In 2012, he did a tour around the documentary “Sound City” about the LA studio of the same name, which basically served as an excuse for him and Foos to tour people from his high school album collection: Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan and even, for less positive impact, Rick Springfield, who turned soap opera star into pop-rocker. “Dave loves rock and roll so much he’s like a little kid,” Fogerty said between songs on the New York show.
And his infectious energy and sheer joy in bringing out the spirit and history of rock and roll was on full display Tuesday night and will likely continue as the band’s tour behind the new album for the next few years. Now, if I could just get “Slow Ride” out of my head…