“You guys like a bit of rain, don’t you? It happens. Every. Single. Time.” Much like the rain, Dave Grohl’s showmanship is our constant companion tonight.
Speaking to the crowd, Grohl aka the Nicest Man in Rock™ asks, “Are you ready for a long night?!”. Ahead of their slot at Reading and Leeds Festival, this long night in particular has been a long time coming. Foo Fighters’ last Irish outing was Slane 2015, so understandably, not even the rain is a deterrent.
The makeshift stalls outside the RDS give an excellent insight into what the Irish view as proper rain gear: leftover pink cowboy hats from Garth Brooks and emergency rain ponchos at a fiver a pop. The gates open at 5.30, and support arrives in the unlikely form of Mancunian pop punk up-and-comers Hot Milk, intent on warming up those who came early and braved after-work traffic with songs like Awful Ever After.
Then there’s Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. If you’ve ever changed the channel to Scuzz or the like, Frank Carter was sure to appear. In between aggressive numbers like Crowbar and I Hate You, the former Gallows and Pure Love frontman attempts to make the RDS a safe-space for women, sincerely inviting them to crowd-surf and mosh without the risk of being inappropriately touched. This is a welcome gesture in a crowd that can often be an intimidating place for women.
With his signature Pelham Blue Gibson slung around his neck, Grohl takes to the stage, and then takes over. Opening with The Pretender, he signals the beginning of most songs with a blood curdling shriek, while darting from one end of the stage to the other, hair dripping wet.
The set overall is well-constructed and spans the length of their career, including fan favourites like Monkey Wrench from 1997’s breakthrough album ‘The Colour and The Shape’ and The Sky is a Neighbourhood from their latest album ‘Concrete & Gold’. Catering to both old school fans and new, but not without poking fun at first timers, Grohl jokes “25 f**king years, and not one show, really?”
Grohl knows how to light up an audience. He makes everyone feel seen, from dedicating My Hero to Irish physiotherapist Freddie Murray, to repeatedly shining the lights all the way down the arena so he can see the crowd, to singling out one poor attendee, bellowing “listen motherf**ker, you look great on your friends shoulders with no shirt on!”. It goes without saying, Grohl swears. A lot.
Despite his undeniable stage presence, he’s eager to share the limelight. Throughout the show he gives each member their time to shine: Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee, his green-haired daughter Violet who joins them for a rendition of Dirty Water, backing vocalists Laura and Lisa, even tour manager Gus Brandt. If you didn’t know their names on the way in to the RDS, you do now.
In Taylor Hawkins, the Foo’s have a drummer with authority. Simply clad in a U2/Thin Lizzy shirt and swimming togs (which Grohl dubs as resembling “a push pop”), at one point he towers over the stage on a platform for a protracted drum solo that, as hinted by his shirt, included a snippet of Sunday, Bloody Sunday. He takes to the mic first for Sunday Rain and then later for a breathtaking duet of Under Pressure with childhood friend Jon Davison of Yes fame.
We were also treated to an excerpt of The Boys Are Back In Town – a fitting choice given the previous day would have been Phil Lynott’s 70th birthday. It’s not the only birthday they celebrate tonight. The guts of 35000 people sing Happy Birthday to Lisa the backing vocalist.
It also happens to be tour manager Gus Brandt’s birthday as well. Grohl claims Brandt is the “one person [that] kept the band together for 25 years…this guy broke me out of jail!”. He pulls Brandt up on stage, hugging him and saying “I love you”, to which Gus whispers back “Curfew!”. An extra special shout out is bestowed upon him, in the form of closer Everlong.
Earlier in the night Grohl told the crowd “I dunno how many shows we’ve played but when I imagine the perfect kind of show, this is it.” It sounds like a cliché, but after over 2 hours of almost non-stop rock revelry, one would have to agree.