Foo Fighters Cap Lollapalooza In Rocking, Rain-Soaked Set

Band closes weekend with two-hour show despite two thunderstorms.

CHICAGO — For a minute there on Sunday (about 45, actually), it looked like the only people in Chicago who were going to see the Foo Fighters this Lollapalooza weekend were the lucky few who caught their club show late Saturday night.

In true festival fashion, an oppressively hot day turned on a dime around 5:30 and the skies opened up, dumping torrential rain on the already muddy, bog-like grounds in Grant Park. The rain sent tens of thousands of fans scurrying for cover, making them wonder whether the band would even get to perform.

But the Lolla gods relented, and by the time the Foos took the stage to help close the three-day extravaganza, it was a beautiful, somewhat cooler evening.

After a weekend that saw thrilling sets by everyone from Coldplay and Muse to Eminem, My Morning Jacket and more than 125 other bands, the Foos closed it all out in style with two hours of no-holds-barred rock attack.

Blasting off at 100 m.p.h. with the new tune "Bridge Burning," a buzz saw of howls from singer Dave Grohl and whip-crack drums by Taylor Hawkins, the Foos were the antithesis of most Lolla headliners. Aside from the obligatory stage lighting, there were no special effects or giant, distracting blinking lightboards and sculptural stage sets to sell the show to the cheap seats.

(OK, that's a bit of a fib. They had a cool, wrinkly velvet curtain and six smallish oval lighting rigs that had digital displays of the band's logo and some random abstract graphics, but that was like a cardboard tree and papier-mâché rocks compared to the digital spaceship deployed by the competition at the other end of the field, superstar DJ Deadmau5.)

They were just five guys rocking their butts off and loving it. As with the club show at Metro the night before, they opened with the one-two punch of "Bridge Burning" and the muscular single "Rope." And just like the night before, Grohl gave it his head-banging, yelping all, playing to the back of the crowd nearly filling the south field.

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"The Pretender" roared to life just as a giant, ominous cloud loomed overhead ... and then the sky opened up and another torrential downpour sent the crowd scurrying for cover as Grohl and company plowed ahead undeterred.

The always-genial Grohl implored fans to stick it out, even as thousands of soaked, mud-caked revelers gave up and headed for the exits. The band didn't let it shake them, soaring through "Learn to Fly" and "Arlandria," and even adding a screamed verse of "Rain Rain Go Away" into the mix.

"Look at that," Grohl mused with a smile, mid-song. "F---ing clear skies up there. We timed that sh-- perfectly." After that, the only thunder cracks came from Hawkins' drums as the band moved through a speedy "Breakout," the relatively sedate "Long Road to Ruin" and "Stacked Actors," during which Grohl waded out into the crowd as the band vamped (and then continued to vamp as he chugged a much-needed beer upon his return).

What becomes a rock legend most? When even a deep cut on the new album instantly sounds like a classic. That's the case with "Walk," the last song on their recent album Wasting Light. Its urgently climbing verses explode into a head-bobbing chorus punctuated by Hawkins' firecracker drumming, a cascade of majestic, revved-up guitars and, of course, Grohl's rebel yell. And the fans greeted it like it was one of the classics on the night's set list.

After dissing rock bands that use computers, the Foos proved they don't need no stinkin' machines to make an unholy noise with a speed punk-pop "Monkey Wrench." And sometimes all you need is yourself, and you thank the fans for staying with you through the rain and just strum the electric a bit on "Times Like These" because, dammit, it just feels good. And maybe halfway through, the rest of the boys join you and kick it up a notch because, dammit, that feels good, too. And then the audience starts clapping along and shouting the chorus and you're all really glad you, literally, weathered the storm together.

With Grohl's steel-belted voice seemingly giving out a bit towards the end, he announced there was no time to waste with a fake walk off and return for an encore, so the band brought it home with the slow smolder "Skin and Bones."

Before calling it a night, as the 20th anniversary edition wound down, Grohl recalled going to the first Lollapalooza in 1991 in Los Angeles while Nirvana were in town recording Nevermind. He remembered attending the show with late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, saying that the two were amazed that 20,000 people were there to see cool music. "Oh my God, music is changing!" he recalled thinking.

With a tumble through the crowd favorite "Everlong," the band Grohl said couldn't have existed without Lollapalooza helped slam the lid shut on a raucous anniversary party with style. It probably can't feel this real forever, but, man, for three days it felt really good again.

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