The last time the Foo Fighters played Wrigley Field, in 2015, Dave Grohl had a broken leg and was confined to a custom-made ‘throne” the entire night. But that was then.
“It’s good to be back. Last time, I couldn’t dance, couldn’t run, couldn’t walk,” Grohl told a roaring crowd Sunday night, while kicking off the first of two shows at the ballpark as part of the band’s Concrete and Gold Tour. “But tonight we’re going to do all that and more. … It’s going to be a long night, m—–f—–s.”
Grohl and company kept that promise with an epic and physically demanding, nearly three-hour set, sampling from the band’s entire nine-album discography. It was all coupled with trademark special guests and a healthy dose of covers (including a perfectly bizarre mashup of Van Halen’s “Jump” in the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine”).
The six-piece band, which grew from the ashes of Nirvana’s demise in the early ‘90s and retains nearly the same lineup of Grohl, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and recent newcomer Rami Jaffee on keys, is one of the most definitive in rock. If not only for their albums, which weave in and out through every era of rock music, then certainly for the live shows, which are so intense, captivating and rowdy that you almost wish the band would leave out tip jars when it’s all over.
A set may only have 20 or so songs, but each one gets its own director’s cut on stage. There was, for example, a trio of backup singers for “The Sky is a Neighborhood” and “Dirty Water,” which helped cool off Grohl’s exhausted voice; a cabaret version of “Big Me”; and an aggressive, extended session for “Rope,” which led into a five-minute drum solo by the incomparable Hawkins (on none other than a 20-foot towering platform). But the most impressive may have been “Best Of You,” which featured an improvised instrumental ending featuring some of the most beautiful guitar work ever from Grohl, who slowed down if only for a few minutes for even more intense concentration.
At 49, Grohl unquestionably has more energy and passion than most frontmen half his age. On several occasions during this tour, he made headlines for almost re-fracturing his leg from all the marathon running across the stage and down his personal catwalk (he even chided Shiflett at one point for using the ramp at one point on this night).
“I would not be here right now if it weren’t for that show at that [expletive] club across the street,” Grohl joked at one point, recounting the story of his very first concert, a Naked Raygun show at the nearby Cubby Bear bar in 1983, during one of the summers he spent with extended family in Chicago. “That’s the night I decided I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
The Chicago homage continued with a special appearance by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, who joined the Foos on stage for a cover of “Ain’t That a Shame.” Luke Spiller of The Struts (one of the night’s two opening bands along with Melkbelly) joined Hawkins for vocal duties on a cover of “Under Pressure” while Grohl humbly found his way back to the drum kit.
While the Foo Fighters set list on night one was identical to the standard one they’ve been using almost religiously on this tour, Monday night’s gig begs for more spontaneity. Get there early — Foo Fighters are one of the few performers at Wrigley Field to allow general admission standing room on the field, giving everyone a fair shot at getting up-close and personal.
All My Life
Learn To Fly
The Sky Is A Neighborhood
Another One Bites The Dust/Imagine/Jump/Blitzkrieg Bop (medley of covers of Queen, John Lennon, Van Halen, The Ramones)
Under Pressure (cover of Queen & David Bowie)
Ain’t That A Shame (cover of Cheap Trick)
Best Of You
Times Like These
This Is A Call