Foo Fighters create a nostalgic atmosphere at Riot Fest 2023

“Whenever we play this city I always gives props, not only to Cubby Bear, not only to Naked Raygun, not only to my cousin Tracy who took me, but to the city of Chicago. Without you I don’t think I’d be doing this thing,” David Grohl told fans on Friday night.

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Foo Fighters perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Every time Foo Fighters play Chicago, frontman Dave Grohl has one particular story he likes to tell the assembled masses. It’s the same story, with a little extra detail added in every time, but it never loses its sentiment.

“We don’t have to go into it but I want you guys to know that the first time I ever saw a live band play a show was at Cubby Bear when I was 13 years old. I say it every time I play here,” Grohl shared — again — of seeing Naked Raygun in 1983.

“I had never seen a rock and roll band on stage. That s- - t changed my life forever. So whenever we play this city I always gives props, not only to Cubby Bear, not only to Naked Raygun, not only to my cousin Tracy who took me, but to the city of Chicago. Without you I don’t think I’d be doing this thing.”

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Foo fighters perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In the band’s headlining set on Friday night, Grohl led the Foos into the nostalgia-wielding “Times Like These” to drive the message home. Grohl and his counterparts — Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee and newly inked drummer Josh Freese — always come wholly alive when they are in concert with long, looping takes on song arrangements for “The Pretender” and “My Hero,” entertaining tangents, and the occasional one-offs (like playing the more-obscure “White Limo” on this night).

But for this set, the nearly 30-year-old band were playing like they wanted to make a great first impression. And they kind of were.

Upon asking how many in the vast crowd were seeing Foo Fighters for the first time and realizing it was an overwhelming majority, Grohl introduced the band using their résumés as bait to win over the punk rockers in the crowd, noting Shiflett was from No Use For A Name, Me First, and the Gimme Gimmes; Mendel from Sunny Day Real Estate; Smear from the legendary The Germs; Jaffe from The Wallflowers (the definite oddball mention); and Freese “who’s played every Warped Tour,” with Grohl noting the drummer’s list of previous band gigs including Devo, The Vandals and Nine Inch Nails.

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Foo Fighters perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“Let’s get a warm round of applause for the dude who made it possible for us to be here tonight,” Grohl said to a huge roar from the crowd, commenting on Freese taking over the kit for the late Taylor Hawkins. The band have kept their fallen comrade close to their hearts, vowing to play “Aurora” — Hawkins’ favorite song — “every night for the rest of their lives.”

Ending with “Best of You” and “Everlong” was also an obvious wink and nod to their “best of” history. — Selena Fragassi

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