CHICAGO — What a difference 16 years makes. The first time the Foo Fighters played Chicago's legendary Metro club they were that new band formed by Nirvana's ex-drummer and not many people had heard their debut.
But late Saturday night, less than 24 hours before they were slated to headline the [article id="1668525"]closing night of Lollapalooza[/article], they packed their stadium-rocking show into the 1,150-capacity club for a torrid, wall-sweating, nearly two-and-a-half hour gift to some very lucky fans who got to witness one of those rare "I was there" moments in rock.
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"We're going to do the whole new record and then a bunch of old sh--," Grohl explained to the crowd about the track order of the special night.
So, yeah, they got a ton of the hits ... but only after a run-through of Wasting Light, which seemed just fine with everyone packing the main floor and balcony. The opening salvo of "Bridge Burning" and recent single "Rope " ripped just a bit harder than usual, as did "Arlandia," and the shouted chorus of "These Days" had the explosive energy of a stadium rocker.
Foo fans are nothing if not loyal, and even on the deep cuts from the new one, like "A Matter of Time," they came in right on cue, singing the chorus refrain "before, before" unprompted, bringing a grin to Grohl's sweat-drenched face as he and the band went Wembley Stadium-intensity in a Metro side space.
And that, in a nutshell, is what rules about the Foo Fighters. They bring it with the same level of energy and fight every time, whether they have [article id="1668598"]60,000 Lollapalooza fans[/article] in front of them (as they're likely to Sunday night) or 1,500. The first set closed with the elegiac [article id="1659678"]"I Should Have Known,"[/article] which had an extra poignancy in the club where, in 1989, Grohl had played with the cathartic song's inspiration, late Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain. After a spirited rumble through "Walk," it was time to get down to business.
His black T-shirt soaked all the way through, Grohl cued up "All My Life," leading the ferocious three-guitar blitzkrieg with the floor shaking by bouncing as they yelled the refrain, "On to the next one!"
"My Hero" was practically a group hug, with fans breaking into a fast soccer stadium chant and gladly taking on the chorus as Grohl beamed at their robust effort. And while Dave said the next night's Lolla gig would be "super-duper fun," what he's really been looking forward to, he admitted, was this show.
And considering that the band had been on the road for five weeks, with the exception of drummer Taylor Hawkins' exhausted look at night's end, there was no rust at all in evidence. But, given their catalog of hits, Grohl said he'd have to shut up if they were to get to them all, and he wasn't kidding as the set barreled through an impressive catalog of radio staples, including "Learn to Fly," "The Pretender," "Cold Day in the Sun," "My Hero," "Best of You," "Everlong," Monkey Wrench," a sedate, partially solo "Times Like These" and a darkly intense and ominous "Stacked Actors."
During the latter, Grohl magically appeared in the venue's balcony to play a bluesy solo while hanging over the railing as fans snapped pictures and slapped his back to the amusement of the rest of the band. Mid-song, he lowered his guitar down into the crowd and made his way back to the stage only to scold a fan for knocking the instrument out of tune and stealing one of its knobs. "Who's got the f---ing knob for my guitar?" he yelled in mock anger before shaking his head and adding, "Keep it."
The show roared to a close with a call-and-response blues riff showdown between Grohl and lead guitarist Chris Shiflett on Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues" (made famous by The Who).
Fittingly, one of the songs Grohl ended with was the band's first single, the still-scorching "This is a Call," which, after all these years, all these miles and all that history, sounded just as gut-punchingly fun and loose as that first time in 1995. (Yes, I was there.)
MTV News is in Chicago for Lollapalooza 2011! Stick with us all weekend as we cover the bands you love and the bands you will love soon.