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Foo Fighters w/ Against Me! – [Live]

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Sunday, 10 February 2008

The multiple benefits of having a large concert indoors didn’t really occur to me until I emerged from my trusty old 4Runner only to immerse myself in a sweltering rainstorm that was raging outside of Oracle Arena in Oakland on Saturday night. Lines poured out of the building onto the ground level, as folks impatiently waited for their chance to see one of world’s biggest bands, The Foo Fighters. When I got inside, I discovered another bonus, summed up eloquently by my friend: “This shit is loud.”

If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that the band, Against Me!, doesn’t have a lead singer. I managed to miss the first couple songs of their set, so it was hard to distinguish just which man, clad in the black t-shirt and jeans, was in charge of belting out the vocals. One thing was for sure, these guys told someone to the crank the volume all the way up. And, they were simple. They didn’t put on a spectacle. They didn’t have any pianos to play. They didn’t have any records spinning. They didn’t have any horn section. All Against Me! carried with them on stage, besides a couple of dark outfits, were a few strings, some sheets of cow skin and maybe a cymbal or two.

The cadence on the live version of “Stop!” caused me to do more foot tapping than the very same track on the album would lead me to while at the show. I racked my brain for a way to describe these guys later, and just couldn’t get this dreaded word “energy” out of my head, because they sure as hell brought it. After all, this band was about the raw music, and they played with a fierce devotion to the craft, leaving little time for rest in between songs. Ending their set with “The Ocean,” they practiced what I like to call “Guitar Sex,” jamming, while facing each other, thrusting their hips into the powerful sound waves that came from these simple string instruments.

Next, the Foo Fighters entered the stage amidst blue lights and hypnotic videos playing on screens behind the stage. Despite hailing from one of the most important bands of the last 20 years and going on to head one of the biggest bands in the world today, Dave Grohl surprised me with the amount of hair that came down from his dome. In fact, he had a sound victory for the “hairiest man on stage” contest, although Taylor Hawkins tried to give him a run for his money from behind the drum set.

The Foos started with eight members, which included former Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear who, despite some skilled guitar playing, managed to execute some awkward-looking dance moves. After the first couple of songs, the band dropped down to its normal four members, and continued to roll out the hits. Easily winning the crowd over, the Foos played their latest hit, “The Pretender,” early on, transitioning into some older and more well-known tracks. Grohl paused in between every couple of songs, took strolls down the large catwalk with his large, blue guitar and tried his damndest to get the audience to sing his songs for him, not really struggling with success.

About an hour into the show, another stage invaded the sea of people, coming down from the rafters at the opposite end of the runway, complete with a new drum set and a piano, amongst other toys. Grohl brought all of his friends along for the acoustic set and the bandmember count went back up to eight. I could hear a couple of bigger women close by plotting to expose themselves, “when they played that ‘Everlong’ song.” Running through hits like “Skin and Bones” and "My Hero” and a pretty sweet triangle solo, Grohl turned the stage over to his drummer, Hawkins, who took the reigns on the vocals for “Cold Day In the Sun.” Thankfully, or unthankfully, those aforementioned breasts made a large appearance when Grohl’s friends evacuated for him to play a solo version of “Everlong,” causing just about everyone with the ability to talk to sing along.

Back at the other end of the catwalk, the Foos finished their set and retreated backstage. As the crowd looked on, once again, outsmarting this age-old assumption of a band trying to finish on time. As we were impatiently waiting, the screens behind the stage showed the camera backstage focusing on the set list, panning over to a beverage-wielding Grohl, who held up one finger to mouth the words, “One More Song?” to which he heard a resounding “yes.” Of course the crowd raged and cheered when the lens turned to Hawkins as he introduced the idea of an additional five-song set. Grohl, immediately took back the camera and settled on three more songs to keep his beloved audience at bay.

When the Foos came back out, I finally heard the first Foos song that hooked me on them all those years ago, “Big Me.” They could have ended it there and I’d have been happy. But, they insisted on playing more hits and for some reason, appealing to the entire audience. Their last song was “Best of You” and the lights came on after as members of the crowd headed back into the rain both whining about the songs they didn’t play and reveling in the ones that they did.

More on the Foo Fighters here: www.foofighters.com

More on Against Me! here: www.againstme.net

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