Foo Fighters thrilled a packed Showbox audience with a three-hour show last night that dug deep into the band’s catalog and served up some entertaining and unexpected covers as well.
The band has been doing a series of small-scale shows in the cities featured in the Dave Grohl-directed HBO series “Sonic Highways.” The series’ seventh episode, which also aired last night, focused on Seattle; the audience was treated to a screening of the program before Foo Fighters took the stage.
The set list, too, seemed to acknowledge Foo Fighters’ roots in the city. Grohl recorded the first Foo Fighters album, largely on his own, at Robert Lang Studios in Shoreline, and the band performed seven tracks from that self-titled album, from the hard-edged pop of “This Is a Call” and “Weenie Beenie” to the love song “Big Me,” which Grohl delivered in a slower, more moving arrangement than its album version.
There were plenty of crowd pleasers as well, the audience singing along and pumping their fists to rousing numbers like “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench,” and “All My Life.” The band had fun with the arrangements, extending songs with lengthy instrumental sections, as on the propulsive “The Pretender,” which had Grohl facing off with drummer Taylor Hawkins as if in a contest to see who could play their instrument the hardest.
Toward the end of the set, the band cut loose with a series of covers: the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” and “Breakdown” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Grohl took over on drums while Hawkins sang lead vocal on Cheap Trick’s “Stiff Competition,” revealing that while Hawkins may be a fine drummer, he’s no match for Grohl’s hard hitting attack on the kit. Grohl jokingly asked the audience to cut them a little slack on the funky “Under Pressure,” noting that, “It’s me and Taylor singing, not Freddie Mercury and David Bowie!”
Producer Butch Vig made an unexpected appearance on stage, reminding the band they needed to play “Subterranean,” the song recorded in Seattle for “Sonic Highways.” The slow burning “Exhausted” was the show’s penultimate song, which Grohl noted used to be the standard last song at shows (it’s also the last song on the Foo Fighters’ debut album). Instead, that honor went to the haunting “Everlong.” It’s sometimes performed as an acoustic number, but it was the rocked up album version the band chose to perform, Grohl delivering the bittersweet lyrics with an unabashed passion.