Foo Fighters rock with driving force


October 21, 2002



One of the last remaining poster boys of grunge (he's even still wearing flannel!), the lingering question in many rock critics' minds about Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters is, "Would anyone care about this guy if he hadn't once been in Nirvana?"

The answer during a sold-out show at Metro on Saturday night was a resounding "Yes!" As he reaffirms with a strong new album out on Tuesday, Grohl has an ability to craft massively catchy guitar riffs and big, indelible sing-along choruses--albeit ones that he hammers into the ground with relentless repetition.

It's a safe guess that the overwhelming majority of the packed young crowd at Metro never saw Nirvana live, and they probably think of that groundbreaking trio as "classic rock," if they think about it at all.

There's no doubt that Grohl's former position as that band's drummer opens doors for him in the industry that have long since closed to other smart, tuneful, and adventurous rock bands, including the Queens of the Stone Age, the group he toured with last summer.

But the problem with MTV and modern-rock radio isn't that they play the Foo Fighters' lyrically slight but generously hook-filled garage-rock. It's that they don't play enough other music like that.

True, the Foos seemed to lose their compass after their strong, self-titled 1995 debut and the departure of guitarist Pat Smear. "The Colour and the Shape" (1997) and "There Is Nothing Left to Lose" (1999) increasingly pandered to the demands of pop novelty, and the last time I saw the band live, during one of Q101's massive arena shows, Grohl was shucking and jiving, posing and preening like pathetic rock-star wannabes such as Gavin Rossdale or Richard Patrick.

Thankfully, the band he brought to Metro was a relentless nonstop rock machine, pounding out tune after tune with a crushing intensity that came in large part from drummer Taylor Hawkins. (It should come as no surprise that one of the most hard-hitting drummers of his generation hires someone as good or better to take his place when he steps out in front on guitar and vocals.)

The band's 17-song set list mixed the familiar hits ("Monkey Wrench," "Learn to Fly," "This Is A Call") with songs from the new "One By One," including the pile-driver "All My Life," the catchy "Have It All" (which its author said was inspired by the recent revelation that he's one of the luckiest men in the world) and "Tired of You," an unusually spartan and haunting number that Grohl delivered as the first song of the encore, performing solo except for some minimal backing by lead guitarist Chris Shiflett. (Brian May of Queen played the elegiac guitar lines on the record.)

In fact, if there was one problem with Saturday's show, it was that Grohl played it safe and didn't deliver enough of the new material, most likely out of a concern that his fans haven't heard it yet.

(Hey, Dave, fear not: It's been bootlegged all over the Net for weeks now!)

Otherwise, this was the Foos at their best, with Grohl reclaiming his self-deprecating sense of humor ("This is the big rock breakdown--think of Ian Astbury and the Cult!" he shouted as he struck a pose atop a monitor) and his punk-rock roots (he dedicated one song to Chicagoan Jeff Pezzati, asserting that the first punk show he ever saw was Naked Raygun at the Cubby Bear--though he didn't explain how someone who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. happened to be in a Chicago club at age 13).

When the show came to a close after a rollicking cover of "Next to You" by the Police (with Hawkins on vocals) and the Foos' own "Everlong," Grohl promised to return soon, "probably at the enormodome."

That'd be fine, Dave--just bring the Metro's musical wallop, and leave the arena-rock attitude at home.