Thursday, 1 September 2011

Review - Foo Fighters (Chicago, IL)

Foo Fighters w/ The Joy Formidable
Chicago, IL
Saturday, August 6, 2011

Although Lollapalooza weekend was almost a month ago, I had to write about this show. The festival weekend was Thursday to Monday with the festival contained within there which is usually enough, but as I packed Wednesday night the Foo Fighters delivered the tease via Facebook and the next morning at 10am simply asked, "Got any ideas of fun shit we could do on Saturday night?". At 11am tickets went on sale and sold out just as quickly, but through some stroke of luck (and with the assistance of a friend) I acquired tickets and was off to this gig. The festival enough was sufficient for my weekend, but being able to see one of my favourite bands in a small club (1,100 capacity) is pretty much a dream come true, especially at this stage of the game.

The festival up until Saturday at 9:45pm delivered quite a few solid sets and some disappointments but the best part of the weekend was about to take place once I took off from Eminem's headlining set. He finished at 10pm and the Foos hit the stage uptown at 11pm and they took priority.

Unfortunately, some incorrect planning landed me a couple of minutes late for the show but the second I got to the back of the club I was blown away by how close my vantage point was as the band finished up "Bridges Burning". Jumping into "Rope" from the new album Wasting Light and then "Dear Rosemary" it was evident that they were going through it in sequence as they did earlier this year before its release. As it turns out (thanks YouTube!) Dave told the crowd at the beginning that they would be playing the whole new album, which worked out great because it ensured that some songs which may not be on the Lollapalooza setlist would certainly get played on this night. Continuing along the guys rocked with their heaviest track in years, "White Limo" while progressing through the album, including sing-alongs "Arlandria" and "Back & Forth". One benefit of the live setting is it allows tracks to explode and take on a new life which is exactly what happened for me. Coming in I was a fairly long-time Foo Fighters fan, but not overly crazy about the new album as it settled in with me. Their style of music has been criticized for being too generic but it's fun and they have been one of my favourite bands for years, more on that later. They're a great fucking rock band, who am I kidding. Even the Bon Jovi-sounding "Miss the Misery" sounded great.

Moving on, they knocked down the tracklist and after finishing up the middle portion of the album it was time for the heartbreaking "I Should Have Known", which I don't expect to see on too many setlists going forward, so this was a nice treat to see in person (not that it's happy, but for rarity-sake). Concluding the Wastling Light portion of the night was recent single and closing track "Walk" which much like the others is an uplifting, catchy Foos track that meets the formula, but it's the formula that everybody in the Metro has come to love. This song is going to be a staple in the future and deservingly so.

Now that the new album was wrapped up it was time for the relatively older tracks, kicking off with the thunderous one-two punch of "All My Life" and "My Hero" that inspired more sing alongs and energy from the fortunate audience members. The former is an essential Foos track (despite oddly not making the cut on Sunday) because it brings a certain fury that just wakes everybody up and the latter is simply a classic. Nobody knew that the next night they would blow this rendition out of the water (ha!) but it was still extremely fun to sing along to this hit in such a small setting. Next up was "Learn to Fly", which although it is a classic it has always been somewhere in the middle for me and on this night I feel like I was just eating everything up as I found myself not overthinking and rather enjoying the experience (geeked out hard). "Generator", a song that I had never seen live was a nice surprise up next; yet another reason this show kind of redeemed the band in a major way for me, not that they really owe me a thing.

"The Pretender" and the Taylor Hawkins production "Cold Day in the Sun" were next up, followed by "Long Road to Ruin"; neither of which are favourites of mine but on this night it felt like anything the band did was gold... which brings me to "Stacked Actors". This has been one of my favourite Foos tracks since first hearing There's Nothing Left to Lose but in the arenas it always felt like it got passed off, with the band playing and adding some jams which usually don't feel natural (in the past). On this Saturday night in Chicago in the relatively tiny venue, it led to Dave Grohl entering the crowd through the balcony, jamming, and passing his guitar back to the stage by means of the audience; really cool moment that was certainly one of the highlights of the night for me. I hate to be that guy, but alot of people moved forward as Dave performed from the balcony which resulted in a better view. The crowd around me was extremely friendly for the entire night, having already saved spots while grabbing beers and just being politely energetic (the good kind!). I swear, I wasn't being a dick about it.

Slowing things down slightly was the acoustic rendition of "Times Like These" which eventually was completed by the rest of the band, then the cover of "Young Man Blues", another that I was previously on the fence about. After "Skin and Bones" was another track which demanded audience participation, "Best of You", and boy do they get it everytime. Finally, the main set closed with much earlier track "This is a Call" which has been inconsistently appearing on setlists so it was great to hear it again.

Of course they weren't done. The three-song encore started off with one of their earliest hits, "Monkey Wrench", which also required the energetic crowd. Next was one more that I had not seen live, "Hey, Johnny Park!", adding yet another point to the list of reasons for which this show was unique and kicked ass. Sadly, the most bittersweet point of the evening was the conclusion of the Colour and the Shape trio, smash hit "Everlong" wrapped up the evening. Argue it all you want, this is one of the best rock songs from the last 15 years and it's certainly a personal favourite of mine. Previously I had seen the band twice and each time this was performed mid-set with acoustic, so to see it for the first time with the full-band, start to finish, in a tiny venue like this felt like the perfect way to conclude this crazy Saturday night. I almost cried.

As the band exited the stage after about 150 minutes, this ridiculous evening of music ended with a poster giveaway in the lobby but unfortunately I was unable to snag one. The staff at the venue was incredibly friendly about it after I tried to obtain one, but no such luck. Oh well, the stack of pictures and memories will have to suffice.

So the Foo Fighters more or less have been around for most of my life as a music fan, starting with "Monkey Wrench", "Everlong", and "My Hero" in 1997/1998 (might have seen the "Big Me" video earlier, but I don't know for sure). They had their ups and downs (which is well-documented in Back and Forth, their very-own movie) which delivered a slew of hits and admittedly, some duds. After the release of "In Your Honour" in 2005 I felt like I had reconnected with an old friend in a big way, only to have mixed feelings about follow-up "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace". The accompanying tour didn't help this feeling of doubt as the band had moved up to extremely popular arena band, while also embracing their softer side, leading to some favourites of mine receiving a lighter feel in the live setting ("My Hero", "Everlong") and then something happened. They seemingly hit the jackpot by selling out two nights at Wembley Stadium in 2008 and as a result, it seemed as though they needed a new goal. When the band set forth to work on their 2011 release "Wasting Light" they scaled back their processes and amped up their material, seemingly the perfect mix for certain Foo Fighters fans. This past spring the group debuted the album in various clubs and smaller settings, including a handful of garage sets in front of lucky contest winners.

For me, I knew that I would be seeing them in a hockey arena in Buffalo in September, as well as in a field of people at Lollapalooza, but having the opportunity to see this band at Metro in Chicago was honestly a dream come true. I often wonder which acts I would truly want to see, and there are always many, but it's not everyday that one of your lifelong favourite bands who have exploded to superstar status play in a tiny club with you in the audience. I have always loved Chicago too, so it was certainly fitting. The energy was electric, everybody was just happy to be there and getting along in such a great way. This felt like a gig for primarily dedicated fans and not so much just something to do on a Saturday night, I just wish I could have helped out some of the unluckier few outside of the venue.

In 2007 I saw the White Stripes in Toronto, thanks to a very well timed, last-minute call and I always felt as if that show changed my perspective on music in many ways. Throughout the years I have seen plenty of shows, big and small, and I always considered that show elevated above the rest for the purpose it served in my life. On August 6, 2011, the Foo Fighters reminded me why they have always held a place with me. In arena shows you know what to expect and there is usually less room for surprises. I kept waiting for this set to feel typical but it just didn't, and it was damn fun. They pulled out surprises, they interacted with the audience and made everybody feel like they were just hanging out with these rock stars. This night was special for me on many different levels and it gave me the kick in the ass I needed as a fan. If they somehow stumble onto this review, thank you!

Unfortunately I missed opener the Joy Formidable who hit the stage around 10 (as I was getting on the L en route to the venue). Then I got home and went to sleep at 4am, hours away from Lollapalooza where I would be lucky enough to see them again.

Bridge Burning
Dear Rosemary
White Limo
These Days
Back & Forth
A Matter of Time
Miss the Misery
I Should Have Known
All My Life
My Hero
Learn to Fly
The Pretender
Cold Day in the Sun
Long Road to Ruin
Stacked Actors
Times Like These (Acoustic)
Young Man Blues (Mose Allison)
Skin and Bones
Best of You
This is a Call

Monkey Wrench
Hey, Johnny Park!

Album Breakdown:
Wasting Light: 11
The Colour and the Shape: 4
There is Nothing Left to Lose: 3
Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace: 2
In Your Honour: 2
One by One: 2
Foo Fighters: 1
B-Side: 1
+ "Young Man Blues"

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