Watch the throne: Injured Foo Fighters pummel DTE
It took a broken leg to get Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl to sit down and take his throne as the reigning king of rock and roll, and rarely has a physical prop lined up so well with a metaphorical title.
On an uncharacteristically chilly August night on Monday, Grohl assumed his position atop his metal throne and rocked the very sold-out crowd at DTE Energy Music Theatre through a loose, somewhat sloppy but undeniably live two-hour, 25-minute show.
It was a night where the set list was not the blueprint but a starting off point, where the Foos were open to anything and seemed to be making things up as they went along. “Do you guys want to hear a cover song, or a Foo Fighters song?” Grohl asked the crowd several times, and really took the temperature of the response and reacted accordingly.
The Foos — Grohl, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and keyboard player Rami Jaffee — were able to turn on a dime, tearing through covers by Tom Petty (“Breakdown”) and Van Halen (“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”) one minute and ripping up Foos classics the next.
It wasn’t pristine and it wouldn’t hold up as a live album — Grohl’s screechy screaming in nearly every song was an annoyance more than it was a sign of rock and roll abandon — but it was spontaneous and amounted to a darn good time. For a show led by a guy who was seated nearly the whole time, it was undeniably lively.
After a bludgeoning 45-minute opening set by UK duo Royal Blood, a shot-out-of-a-cannon-Grohl and company took the stage at just after 8:30. Grohl was letting out metal screams before the curtain even dropped in front of the band, and they kicked off with a roaring “Everlong,” setting the pace for the spirited evening that would follow. (The band is currently celebrating its 20th year, and is now at the point when it can comfortably open with songs that would traditionally be closers.)
Grohl was seated in a mobile throne outfitted with guitar necks, spotlights and a large Foo Fighters logo thanks to a June injury where he broke his right leg after falling off a European concert stage mid-show. The animated front man played guitar, headbanged in place and tapped his left leg like he was playing a kick drum; it was like confining Animal from the Muppets to a chair, and Grohl did everything except reach down and tear off his cast and run around the stage. At one point during “Outside,” he took his guitar and started playing it with his cast, and if shredding a guitar with your broken leg isn’t rock and roll then it’s hard to say what is.
Touching on all eight albums in its catalog, the band hopped around playing new songs (“Something From Nothing,” “Congregation”), classics (“This is a Call,” “Monkeywrench”) and covers (David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure”) during the 21-song set. Band intros led to a bit of noodling on several Motor City standards, including Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” before an intro to Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City” led to a full cover of the song because, well, the crowd demanded it. “You want ‘Detroit Rock City’ right now?” Grohl asked the crowd, and then delivered.
That’s how it should be, and the Foo Fighters have taken more of a bar band approach as they’ve grown in stature over the years. Not everything works: Often they draw out songs just for the sake of drawing them out, not adding anything new but just extending the riffs, showing their weakness at jamming and improvisation. For his part, Grohl has a ton of personality but not much to say, and his stories are amusing in the moment but often lead to dead ends. He’s better at creating moments, such as when he called up a guy from the first row who was holding a sign asking to drink a beer with Grohl because it was his birthday. Grohl summoned him to his throne, they slammed some Coors Lights together, and the show went on.
The show was a bit of a family affair — Grohl’s daughters Harper and Violet watched from side stage and brought him water several times during the show — and Grohl was never less than impassioned, especially during “Walk.” The song’s lyrics took on a new meaning in light of Grohl’s injury — “I’m learning to walk again” can now be taken literally — but it was another part of the song that struck the biggest chord.
As Grohl screamed “I’m never gonna die!” he pointed to himself and said those words with utter conviction, and in his delivery, you believed him. For a guy who can rock that hard with a broken leg, immortality is just another hurdle.