Review by Greg Maki
Is there anything better than a big, outdoor rock ‘n’ roll show on a Friday night in the summer? It’s even more appealing when the evening finally brings relief from a sweltering heat wave that’s been roasting the area for the past week. When the headliner is a little act called Foo Fighters—the best American rock band of the past two decades—that helps, too.
Foo Fighters kicked off the North American leg of its 2018 summer tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, which is close enough to frontman Dave Grohl’s old Northern Virginia stomping grounds for him to refer to it repeatedly as a “hometown show.”
But first, English rockers The Struts got things started. Recently christened by Grohl as his favorite opening act Foo Fighters have ever had, the band draws heavily from the glam rock sound of the ‘70s and boasts one of the most charismatic and flamboyant frontmen working today. All shaking hips and waggling fingers, Luke Spiller commanded the stage and worked the crowd like they were his own, eliciting multiple singalongs and generally getting good vibes flowing throughout the venue.
“It’s about time rock ‘n’ roll and music is fun again,” Spiller said, and the capacity crowd seemed to be in full agreement.
With his bandmates—guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies—having more relaxed stage personas, Spiller carried the show, which was highlighted by the hits “Kiss This” and “Could Have Been Me,” and two songs from the band’s upcoming second album, the single “Body Talks” and “Primadonna Like Me.”
THE STRUTS SET LIST: “Put Your Hands Up,” “Body Talks,” “The Ol’ Switcheroo,” “Primadonna Like Me,” “Kiss This,” “Put Your Money on Me,” “Could Have Been Me,” “Where Did She Go”
The Struts are a hard act to follow, and Foo Fighters have been doing it since last fall, including the show I saw at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. Naturally, the Foos’ two hour and 45 minute set on this night included many of the same songs as that show—hit after hit after hit—but it had a much looser feel. Unburdened by playing the first concert at a brand-new venue in the nation’s capital, Grohl and the band—lead guitarist Chris Shiflett, rhythm guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and keyboardist Rami Jaffee—were in an adventurous mood, stretching out many tracks with extended jams and throwing in some surprising covers. Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels,” with Shiflett on lead vocals, was a highlight, as was the weird yet effective mashup of Van Halen’s “Jump” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”—I never expected to write those words together in that order.
While Foo Fighters never have been a theatrical band, the stage show was bigger than expected. Bright, impressive lighting was the norm for the night, and for Hawkins’ solo spot, the drums rose probably 20 feet high, Peter Criss-style.
Grohl—clad in his typical black T-shirt and jeans, and playing his favorite blue Gibson guitar most of the night—playfully ran around the stage, engaging the audience at every turn, at one point shotgunning a beer with a fan on stage. It takes some major stamina, talent and charisma to do what he does for nearly three hours a night. I think most of the crowd gladly would have stayed for three more.
FOO FIGHTERS SET LIST: “All My Life,” “Learn to Fly,” “The Pretender,” “The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” “Rope,” Drum solo, “Sunday Rain,” “My Hero,” “These Days,” “Walk,” “Under My Wheels” (Alice Cooper cover, Chris Shiflett on lead vocals), “Another One Bites the Dust” (Queen cover, first verse only), “Jump” (Van Halen cover, mashed up with John Lennon’s “Imagine”), “Blitzkrieg Bop” (Ramones cover), “Under Pressure” (Queen/David Bowie cover, Taylor Hawkins and Luke Spiller of The Struts on vocals, Dave Grohl on drums), “Monkey Wrench,” “Wheels,” “This is a Call,” “Breakout,” “Dirty Water,” “Run,” “Best of You,” (encore) “Times Like These,” “Everlong”
PHOTOS BY LISA A. WALKER