Review: Foo Fighters prove more than deserving of Sydney’s largest stadium stage

Wearing an Oxford Art Factory t-shirt – where the iconic frontman last performed in Sydney – Dave Grohl and his fighters of Foo returned to Sydney last night, thrilling audiences in their ANZ Stadium debut with a rollicking 3 hour set that proved as much a trip down memory lane as it was a celebration of the band’s latest effort, Concrete and Gold.

But before they could get started, we had two incredible support acts to enjoy. First up, Sydney locals The Preatures proved themselves every part the stadium rock stars. The brief but impactful set sounded superb on the stadium speakers – no mean feat – as they jumped through something of a greatest hits set – with tracks like “Better Than It Ever Could Be” and “Yanada” making an appearance ahead of closer “Is This How You Feel?”. It’s always a little awkward for an opening band on such a big stage – they have to play within a small area of the stage and couldn’t enjoy the catwalk (or as Izzy called it, “Dave’s Sacred Space”), but they handled it with class and got the growing crowd moving in advance of the main attractions. They never disappoint, and tonight was no exception.

With a set that would remind the crowd that they’ve had almost as many hits as the headliners and have been around for even longer, Weezer churned through a greatest hits set of their own across an hour, as they told the crowd “it’s our job to warm you up… are you warm?”. 14 songs arched the band’s 25+ year career, though for fans in the crowd, and the band themselves (who were last in Australia for 20th anniversary Blue Album shows – and a surprise Pinkerton show), it wouldn’t have been enough. The band promised a summer 2019 return to headline their own shows. And if tonight was any indication, the band are in top form at the moment – and we’ll be in for a treat. The set opened with “Surf Wax America” off their eponymous debut, before churning through favourites like “Pork and Beans”, “Undone”, “Hash Pipe”, “Beverly Hills” (which enjoyed a memorable bass solo) and set closer “Island in the Sun”.

You could spot the band’s earliest fans based on who was singing along to tracks like “El Scorcho” or “Buddy Holly”, while bringing up the guitar reverb on “My Name is Jonas” still seemed to bring frontman Rivers Cuomo the same enjoyment it would have when the song first came out in 1994. Meanwhile, new tracks “Happy Hour” and “Feels Like Summer” off their October release Pacific Daydream blended in well, as did “Thank God For Girls” off The White Album, proving an underrated gem in their more recent catalogue. Very much a festival set, I can safely say fans will be looking forward to their return – and the possibility of the release of the rumoured “Black Album” later this year.

Weezer Setlist:

Surf Wax America
Pork and Beans
El Scorcho
My Name Is Jonas
Thank God for Girls
Undone – The Sweater Song
Happy Hour
Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
Hash Pipe
Feels Like Summer
Beverly Hills
Buddy Holly
Say It Ain’t So
Island in the Sun

Wasting no time, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters jumped straight into “Run” – the first single off Concrete and Gold – as they hit the stage. In fact, the first part of the set was a non-stop barrage of hits, with one song blending into the next – not something the band have been known for in the past. Let’s just say Dave enjoys the banter. And we love him for it. It would come, but to get the ball rolling, they pretty much let the music speak for itself. During fan favourite “All My Life”, however, which came second, Dave made sure we were getting moving, “Alright motherfuckers… you wanna dance? Let’s dance!”

Not far behind, “The Pretender” became one of the first jams of the night, while they brought on three female backing vocalists for the anthemic “The Sky is a Neighbourhood”, who would later return for “Dirty Water”. “Rope” became the biggest jam of the night, while lasers pointed on stage and covered the stacks. Meanwhile, Taylor was thrown up into the skies on an elevated kit. Who would’ve thought that “Rope” would become the massive jam song? Keeping him on his perch, this led right into “Sunday Rain” with Taylor on vocals.

It wasn’t until “My Hero” that Dave got the banter rolling, telling the crowd, “I like it fast and I like it weird”, as he moved into the centre of the stadium, which led into some of the most memorable moments of the night, including the inclusion of “White Limo”, as the lights dropped over the band, and “Breakout”, which offered fans the chance to singalong and get their lights into the air. Proving we knew some of the older tracks, the band snuck in the off setlist “Big Me” a bit later in the night, and delivered a rollicking main set closer with “This is a Call” and “Best of You”. Though one of the stranger moments of the night was when “Let it Die” – a track released less than 10 years ago – was dedicated to the “old school Foo Fighters fans”. Really? Maybe he’s trying to tell us something. Should I stop yelling out for “For All The Cows”?

A four song encore (with the obligatory encore cheer for more songs, egged on by Dave in night vision and a very unhappy Taylor Hawkins), opened up with the acoustic “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners”, with a Dave taking fans through the story behind the song, and after the track remarking “This shit’s as hard as a bitch – I’m a fucking drummer man!”. The night would close with “Times Like These” and “Everlong”, as well as a cover to AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”, dedicated to Malcolm Young, whose family had been invited to the show. Indeed, AC/DC were no strangers to this very venue. Those playing at home may remember Dave playing the track as part of the Chevy Metal gig at the Oxford Art Factory last year – and it wasn’t the only cover that made both setlists.

In addition to fighting to Foo, this band have always made it part of their mission to help keep the Rock classics alive – the songs they love to play and made them want to be musicians in the first place. As they have gotten bigger, they seem to have taken this more and more seriously, with a larger chunk of the set dedicated to covers – and tonight they churned through quite a few as they introduced the band. Chris Shiflett led vocals on Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels” (which they acknowledged that few in the crowd probably knew, but they were going to play it anyway), and snuck in a bit of “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, “Jump” by Van Halen, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the The Ramones and “Under Pressure” by Queen, which saw Dave hit the drums to huge applause from the crowd – and egged on by Taylor, he smashed out the opening to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which may have been the moment of the show for some of the bigger fans in the crowd.

When it comes to a live show, the Foo Fighters have nothing left to prove. They’ve consistently delivered captivating sets over the 20+ years that they’ve been visiting our shores, but what really made the show particularly special was it showed the band had truly perfected their craft as a stadium rock band. At their heart is a band who most enjoy a small stages in clubrooms, showcasing the catalogue as they break speakers, get sweaty and scream along with their fans. The stadiums – as much as they have been their home for the last decade – have never felt as natural, nor brought they same level of interaction they thrive on. And while they still may feel like they have to do X and Y for the less hardcore or “old school” fans in the crowd – the ones like me who still wish “Stacked Actors” and “Floaty” were part of the set – they have developed their show into one that has something for everyone, including themselves, as most evident during their string of covers. Yes, they’ve always delivered, but last night they truly earned their spot amongst the company of greatest stadium rock bands in the world, playing the world’s largest venues. And while it may be a while before we see them again, we can be sure they will deliver when they do. I know I’ll be waiting.

Foo Fighters Setlist:

Run
All My Life
Learn to Fly
The Pretender
The Sky Is a Neighborhood
Rope
Sunday Rain
My Hero
These Days
Walk
Let It Die
White Limo
Breakout
Under My Wheels (Alice Cooper Cover – Chris Shiflett vocals)
Another One Bites The Dust (Queen Cover)
Jump (Van Halen Cover)
Blitzkrieg Bop (The Ramones Cover)
Under Pressure (Queen Cover – Dave on Drums with a Smells Like Teen Spirit Tease)
Big Me
Monkey Wrench
Dirty Water
This Is a Call
Best of You

Encore:
Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners
Times Like These
Let There Be Rock (AC/DC Cover)
Everlong

For the remaining tour dates across Australia and New Zealand, head to https://www.frontiertouring.com/foofighters

Photos by Gwendolyn Lee. The reviewer attended the performance at ANZ Stadium on 27th January 2018 as a guest of Frontier Touring.