Foo Fighters at Slane Castle, Meath, 30 May 2015 – SLANE 2015

Slane Castle is pretty much the highest level of rock stardom that can be achieved. With a max capacity of some 80,000 people, this small town in Meath provides the ultimate test of a band’s mass appeal. Foo Fighters are the band at the head of the bill this time around, and after eight albums over the course of twenty years, and with one of the most iconic figures of contemporary rock – Dave Grohl – as their frontman, this a group well able to pull off a show in this prestigious venue.

Despite the massive capacity and stage, navigating Slane is a nightmare, and by the time this reviewer had finally worked through the labyrinth of checkpoints and roads that lead to the concert site, The Strypes and Ash had already performed. Hozier was next on the bill, and his soulful singing was rich and vibrant. Jackie and Wilson impressed with its laid-back vibe, but with a catchy chorus to maintain attention. Unfortunately it seems as though Hozier doesn’t have quite enough material to enchant for a full set. Despite being capable of pulling out a strong chorus, the verses of a song like Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene lurch along with irregular pauses, and a general flatness that is a little dull.

As soon as Hozier gets any bit of energy going in his set, he loses it just as fast. Cherry Wine is a nice, acoustic number, but sees him slow down the mood, when he needs to spark a bit of life into his set. Take Me To Church eventually sees the band explode into a more vibrant performance and the motion generated by this track carries the band through the rest of the set. He’s good our Hozier, but his live performance needs to be more exciting.

Kaiser Chiefs are in boisterous form from the start, unleashing the bouncy Everyday I Love You Less and Less. Ricky Wilson hops about the stage and his infectious energy helps dispel the dreary mood that the incessant rain brought with it. The Angry Mob is a song that is designed to be chanted along to, and the crowd obliges. Coming On is a great track, shedding back some of the lad rock style that Kaisers are known for and exposing a more tender side to the band. Ruby and I Predict a Riot are thrown into the middle of the set, further stimulating the crowd with their catchiness and their chantable quality. The exuberant Wilson demands the full participation of the crowd, initiating shouts of ‘Foo’ – ‘Fighters!’ repeatedly. This tactic can be tiresome and annoying, and the time it takes could be spent playing songs, but the crowd does feed off Wilson’s energy, so it pays off in the end. Oh My God closes off the set in some style, and while the band spent a long time interacting with the crowd, they still provided a quality set that contained all the hits as well as a few newer tracks, and the crowd-pleasing was ultimately quite effective.

Dave Grohl arrives proclaiming ‘I will keep you warm’ to the Slane 2015 crowd, and the band launch into the spectacular Everlong with gusto and guts to spare. The band teasingly pause for ages before the final chorus, but when they get to it, it’s incredible. Monkey Wrench and Learn To Fly maintain this lightning start and Grohl’s growls are brilliantly ferocious. The Pretender and Arlandria were equally massive sounding, but Grohl lingered on the breakdown sections for both these tracks far too long, to the point where interest was lost. The band are also overly fond of false endings where they appear to finish the song but play the chorus again. It’s an effective gimmick, but loses impact with repeated use, and the Foos do it on nearly every song in this opening stretch.

Grohl proudly announces that the band are playing song after song in order to get through as many as possible, but then proceeds to talk for about five minutes. Grohl is a charming fellow though, and his light conversation is friendly and enjoyable. Mid set sees the standard of the tunes drop slightly, but not by much, and the Taylor Swift dedicated Congregation still manages to impress with its sharp riffs and snappy drum parts. My Hero sees Grohl break out the acoustic guitar for a good old fashioned sing-a-long, and Times Like These again sees Grohl captivating with just a guitar and his raspy voice, before the rest of the band jumps in for a pumped-up outro.

Drummer Taylor Hawkins takes the lead vocals for Cold Day In The Sun, and while Hawkins can’t growl like Grohl can, his voice is perhaps more melodic and the song is a great way to mix up the set a little bit. The band pay tribute to Thin Lizzy; ‘especially for you guys’ and put on a spirited cover of Jailbreak. Another cover in the form of Under Pressure follows, with some great vocal interplay between Grohl and Hawkins. The band manage to move up a gear from this point on, and All My Life rocks heavier than anything we’ve heard yet. Grohl threatens to explode such is the power of his roars and the guitars howl just as convincingly.

Outside, a new track, sneaks in among this final run of hits, but is a fantastic addition to the set. While most of the breakdown sections during the show have mainly consisted of a significant slowdown and some geeing up from Grohl; here we have a full-on jam, with drums and bass maintaining an awesome groove, while the three guitarists construct intricate melodies and some bombastic riffs. This sets the scene for the irresistible Best Of You, and it feels like the whole day has been building to this moment, as Grohl shreds his lungs on this mammoth anthem. And when the song appears to be over, the band jump into the chorus one last time, employing the false ending technique to maximum effect for once.

This seems like the ideal place to wrap up the gig, but the Foos have one more treat left in store, delivering one last cover, this time the AC/DC classic Let There Be Rock. The band conclude the night in a haze of guitar brilliance, the fireworks go off, and we’re left to soggily trudge through the mud and figure out how to escape the place.

Foo Fighters may have overindulged themselves at points, but in the end they proved that they’re a hard hitting rock band, with a huge back catalogue of excellent tunes capable of entertaining 60,000 people in the pouring rain.
Slane 2015 Photos: Paulo Nuno