Foo Fighters Show Off Pop Chops At CMJ Show

Club gig was one of hottest tickets of four-day festival.

NEW YORK — The Foo Fighters have been sneaking up on people

lately. Two weeks after introducing their new touring guitarist, Chris

Shiflett — along with songs from their upcoming third album —

at a surprise gig in Los Angeles, they came here Friday for a show

announced only days earlier.

The Bowery Ballroom show was one of the hottest tickets at the four-day

CMJ Music Marathon, which brought roughly 1,000 bands to New York. Early

Friday evening, a line of hundreds of fans stretched down Delancey Street,

around the corner and up a full block of the Bowery; many of the fans

with CMJ badges but not tickets for the show were turned away.

Inside the club, the lucky entrants heard nearly an hour of singer/guitarist

Dave Grohl's aggressive power-pop songs. Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer,

joined Shiflett for a noise-and-feedback blitzkrieg, but songs from

There Is Nothing Left to Lose, due Nov. 2, sounded more poppy than

punky — happy even.

"The new songs were cool," said Ryan James, a CMJ attendee who works for

WRUB, a student radio station at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo,

N.Y. "I'd definitely say it's more clean and less distortive. I guess

that's what happens when you lose two bandmembers."

Actually, the Foo Fighters have lost three bandmembers since releasing

The Colour and the Shape in 1997. Shiflett replaced Franz Stahl,

whose departure was announced in July. Stahl had replaced original Foo

Fighters guitarist Pat Smear, who quit in September 1997. There Is

Nothing Left to Lose will be the band's first album with drummer

Taylor Hawkins, William Goldsmith's replacement.

Nonetheless, "They sound way more impressive live than I expected," James

said.

An exuberant Grohl screamed more than he sang, especially on "Weenie

Beenie" (RealAudio

excerpt), a screeching punk cut from the band's 1995 self-titled debut

album. Shiflett's rhythm work was on point, lifting songs such as that

one and "Monkey Wrench" to the height of their punk ambition.

Grohl's music seems to have gotten lighter and tighter over the years,

as evidenced by the upcoming album's first single, "Learn to Fly," which

was in Friday's setlist.

The Foo Fighters ended with "I'll Stick Around" (RealAudio

excerpt), which was emblematic of the band's love for Led Zeppelin

riffs and Steve Miller bridges — it sounded as if a lightning bolt

hit a bowl of cookies. During the song, Grohl left the stage to engage

in what appeared to be playful scuffling with a fan, according to other

fans. "Get off of me," he yelled at one point.

The roar of the crowd immediately following the song suggested both a

sigh of relief just for having gotten in, and a cheer for the beginning

of the Foo Fighters' next phase.