Friday, October 21, 2011

One Man Show

Foo Fighters / Cage The Elephant
Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
October 19, 2011

I was way into Nirvana before they were hijacked by the mainstream, but I can't say I've ever been a Foo Fighters fan. Not because of any "loyalty" to Dave Grohl's former band, but because they were just average to me, with their albums maybe good for 2 decent songs max to my ears. The last time I saw Foo Fighters was on their debut tour back in the 20th Century.

San Francisco - 1996
(From the Umlaut Archives)

Here in the 21st Century, the Foo Fighters have obtained an odd mainstream popularity and are pretty much a household name. Recently I watched the documentary Back And Forth that tells the band's story and it's not bad as Rock documentaries go. Dave Grohl has also unabashedly championed Metal starting with his excellent Probot project almost a decade ago. Which is cool, but that doesn’t make him or Foo Fighters Metal IMO. Part of me still thinks most people "like" Foo Fighters because they represent 1/3 of Nirvana. Just saying.

As we approached the Will Call window I was surprised to see a couple of Christian "You Are So Going To Hell For Liking This Music" protesters screaming at the people entering the show. Uhhh, was it a slow day in Christianity?? The Foo Fighters are about as Satanic as whole milk... but I did laugh out loud when a guy yelled "SLAAAYER!!" at the protesters. Nicely done.

After getting a beer we found our seats right before Cage The Elephant took the stage. I've seen the band's name before and thought it was stupid... but they actually weren't terrible. The band are from Kentucky and play a sort of retro Brit Pop / Grunge hybrid thing. The singer was entertaining to watch as he worked the stage in a 3rd tier Iggy sort of way. He even closed their set by diving into the crowd and standing on people's hands ala Iggy with the Stooges - Cincinnati

Iggy Pop - Cincinnati 1970

Nice try, Cage The Elephant singer... but everything's already been done.

Foo Fighters hit the stage at 9:00pm sharp with the new songs ‘Bridge Burning’ and ‘Rope’ and remained onstage for a solid 2 ½ hours. Impressive. Although I just said I can't call myself a Foo Fighters fan, I have to admit I know all of their radio hits... 'My Hero’… ‘The Pretender’.. ‘Learn To Fly’.. ‘Everlong'. I was surprised how many songs I actually recognized.

We had good seats in the band guest area... but of course the downside of sitting in comp seats is sharing a row with tall skinny girls with short attention spans. Tonight it was a pair who bopped along to a song and then left, and then came back, after literally every other song. Yes, girls, you're pretty and I'm sure that works for you, but I so want to shove you down the stairs because this is the 5th time you've interrupted the show for me... and the band has only been onstage for 40 minutes. On the flipside, in an Old Metal small world moment I found myself sitting 2 seats over from my old friend Rick Brackett, who I had not seen since we both attended Metallica's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame shindig in 2009. Somewhere Cliff Burton smiled.

Anyway, Foo Fighters onstage should really be called The Dave Grohl Show since he pretty much does everything onstage and the rest of the band basically just stand there. The band had a monster stage show that included video screens, an ego ramp, and a runway down the middle of the arena that went all the way to the soundboard. The small soundboard stage was also on a riser that rose KISS-like at one point during the set for Grohl to give the bad seats the front row experience. Pretty cool, but it was weird that only Grohl utilized the staging and was the only one who even ventured past the stage monitors. However, I guess that onstage dynamic works for AC/DC with Angus.. so what do I know. That being said, Grohl is an excellent front man.. which is good since he’s the only one who looks like he breaks a sweat onstage.

Besides the odd onstage band dynamics, the sound was also kind of weird too. It seemed to be heavily weighted towards Grohl’s vocals and everything was mixed way too clean for my liking. I mean, there were THREE guitarists onstage but you could never tell because that’s not what the band’s live sound is about. It should have sounded huge... but it didn't. Bizarre… but THREE guitarists looks cool onstage. However the Foo Fighters are not Iron Maiden or Lynyrd Skynyrd... or even The Outlaws.

All in all, it was a fun show but of course no Probot songs were played. Besides the big radio hits, Grohl and the band pulled out a very good cover of Pink Floyd’s 'In The Flesh' (with drummer Taylor on vocals and sounding eerily like Roger Waters). During the encores they also trotted out a guest appearance by Bob Mould for the new song ‘Dear Rosemary’ (on which he appears on the new album) and then for a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Breakdown’…. I know… Tom Petty.. but it made me realize that Dave Grohl is the Tom Petty of Hard Rock... Entertaining... not terrible.. but safe. On that note, I was fascinated that evidently NO dudes with long hair seem to like Foo Fighters. Out of the 13,000 or so people in the house I saw no dudes with long hair outside of myself and maybe 3 others. It was downright bizarre to me.. Safe Rock.

Number of Metallica shirts = None. If you bought one of every Foo Fighters merch item you would have paid around $300. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Again, it was a fun show and a good night out, but I just realized I could have simply said a Foo Fighters show is kind of the opposite of a Slayer show instead of writing this whole thing.