Sunday, 6 September 2015

Foo Fighters - Milton Keynes National Bowl, 05/09/15

Because last week wasn't busy enough - with the Bring Me The Horizon headline show, and the entire weekend at Reading festival - yesterday I went to see Foo Fighters headline the Milton Keynes National Bowl. It was a pretty small show, with only a capacity of 65,000 people, so it wasn't a big deal... Honestly...

Opening up, Royal Blood instantly got the audience's attention by playing their intro song, '99 Problems' by Jay-Z. Because the day was decidedly rock-centric, it made for an interesting choice, but judging from the crowd reaction it definitely went over well. When the band came out they seemed so relaxed, you'd almost think they were used to playing crowds of this size - when you consider the fact that they played main stage at Reading and Leeds festival last week, it's almost becoming a daily occurrence for them, but for a band who only have one album it's unnatural that looked so calm. Vocalist Mike Kerr was extremely humble, taking the time to "thank you for coming down so early" and saying "I can't tell you how good it feels to make it and actually be here" - thinking about the fact that the band were only announced as openers last week, it must have been a bit of a last minute thing to get them put on this rescheduled show, but I was glad that they made it too.
Despite the fact that they only have one release under their belts, this was a set filled with hits. From 'Come On Over' to 'Figure It Out', 'Little Monster' to 'Ten Tonne Skeleton', it was obvious that every member of the crowd was going to recognise at least one song. I haven't listened to that much Royal Blood before, but I found that I knew more songs than were new to me (only having not heard 'You Can be So Cruel', 'One Trick Pony' and 'Loose Change') which was a big surprise - I didn't think I'd stumbled across as much as I had. Talking of 'One Trick Pony': the vocal arrangement on the track really impressed me, and I'm disappointed in myself that I hadn't heard it before - it's brilliant. If there was a Royal Blood song I thought had the best shot of becoming one of my favourites, this will be it.
I didn't manage to catch much of their set at Reading (in fact, only hearing half a song while travelling in between bands) but I saw their Reading 2014 festival set and it didn't blow me away. I'm happy to say that my impression of them has completely turned around after this performance - they excelled themselves. They're a band that might not have the best stage presence - drummer Ben Thatcher was constantly taking breaks, stepping away from the drum kit and walking offstage, leaving a little bit of awkward silence behind him - but musically they are superb. During 'Out of the Black', there was quite a large intermission while Ben and Mike had a bit of a chat, but when they dived back into it and thrashed out their instruments in a dramatic climax... There are no words to describe it, because it was utterly sublime.
It'll take a while for Royal Blood to really turn me into a fan, because there are still too many bits that make me unsure - the extra long instrumentals, the strange breaks, the general awkwardness - but they're getting there. 

Come On Over
You Can Be So Cruel
Figure It Out
Little Monster
One Trick Pony
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Loose Change
Out of the Black (with 'Iron Man' by Black Sabbath outro)

Someone that I don't think will ever be able to turn me into a fan is Iggy Pop. I understand that he's a massive icon, an idol for a lot of people, but I just don't really understand the appeal. A (nearly)70 year old man running around stage without a shirt on, swearing so profusely he might as well not use any other words, and playing mediocre rock music? Not my cup of tea.
It wasn't that bad, I suppose - yes, most of the songs sounded the same, but they were catchy in a strange sort of way. I'm not quite sure why, but all of the lyrics just seemed to be pointing to the fact that these were parodies of rock songs. Take 'Skull Ring' for example: "Skull ring, fast cars, hot chicks, money" chanted over and over again as a chorus. It feels... Ridiculous. Yep, that's the only word for it. Similarly, 'Nightclubbing': "Nightclubbing, we're nightclubbing, we're what's happening, nightclubbing, we're nightclubbing". I just cannot take this kind of lyrical content seriously, so I had fun - but that was only because it felt like mockery, so I was enjoying laughing about it.
I know it might sound a bit harsh, but that's honestly just how I felt. There were some good songs - 'The Passenger' and 'Lust For Life' most obviously, with his cover of 'Real Wild Child (Wild One)' coming in close third - but the rest of the set just didn't click with me, at all. I might have enjoyed the set more without the constant swearing, but it was just over the top and it felt so forced - it wasn't natural, it felt as though he was strategically thinking about where to place the next swear word for effect (proven when he took a couple of seconds between words just to come out with another swear word, such as when he said "It fucking means... fucking everything for me to be here". It's not smart, it's not clever, and it's not funny. For a concert that seemed to be catering quite well to families, it was just plain silly - if you know there's a lot of younger people in the audience, please reign yourself in, even if just a little bit. (You'll notice in my Foo Fighters review that Dave Grohl used a lot of swearing during their set as well, but it didn't feel as uncomfortable - it seemed like it was just Dave getting over-excited and letting his language get the better of him. That might be because I've already seen them before and knew what to expect, but I don't remember feeling weird with the language the first time I saw them, and that was when I was only just 15. It's hard to explain the difference that I feel between the two, but for some reason it just didn't sit well with me during Iggy's set.)
This wasn't the worst performance I'd ever seen, but it was certainly the most cringe-inducing. It didn't get any better later on, with Iggy talking to the crowd before 'Some Weird Sin', proceeding to ask a girl in the crowd "I love you I was born poor! Hey baby, are you poor? Did you beg, borrow and steal for this ticket?" which was a little bit shuddery, but became even creepier when he decided to recite the first chorus of 'Some Weird Sin' before performing the song... It was the first time I'd ever seen a band introduce their song by just saying the lyrics, and it didn't really work too well. I might have felt different about this set if I'd grown up with Iggy Pop and had some sort of idea what to expect beforehand, but I didn't have any idea what I was getting myself into. Final song 'Mass Production' was just a massive anti-climax: it dragged on and on for what felt like hours, before Iggy walked off stage without so much as a goodbye, and it meant that the end felt as flat as the rest of the set did.

No Fun
I Wanna Be Your Dog
The Passenger
Lust For Life
Skull Ring
Five Foot One
Sister Midnight
Real Wild Child (Wild One) cover
Some Weird Sin
Mass Production

It's not even debatable that Foo Fighters put on the best performance of the night. Could you really expect anything else? After cancelling Wembley Stadium due to - as vocalist Dave Grohl puts it - "the incident", I was even more excited for this show than I'd been for that one. It would have been amazing to see them in a stadium, but this was my third time seeing them outside (the first being at Milton Keynes back in '11, the second being the Invictus Games closing ceremony last September) and it just has such a brilliant atmosphere - you can't beat rocking out in a random field.
With a big backdrop displaying the logo hanging over the stage before their entrance, Dave's crutch-assisted journey to his throne was invisible to us, meaning that when the backdrop fell to reveal him in the rockiest throne you'll ever see it was a goosebump-inducing moment. Before speeding into 'Everlong', Dave shouted "we turned up for you, so let's do it!" and announced "we waited a long fucking time to be here - it's gonna be a long fucking night!". Despite the fact that Dave was restricted to his throne, it didn't mean that his stage explorations were stopped - the magical throne moved to the end of the runway, stopped to let Dave play for a little bit, then retreated back to the stage so he could be with his band mates. As well as this, Dave decided to stand up during 'Monkey Wrench' to dance along a little bit, saying "I'm getting better, I can fucking dance with you! Do you wanna dance?".
The other times I've seen Foo Fighters, Dave has been unable to stand still - probably one of the reasons the injury happened: if you're that energetic, you're probably going to hurt yourself one day! But it did mean that I was a little bit worried - if a band's entire stage persona is their energetic, unstoppable lead singer, what will they do when he's a bit less energetic than usual? And it was during this night that it really hit me: it's not Dave's energy that makes a Foo Fighters show fun, it's their music. This was more relaxed (for a Foo Fighters show) but there still wasn't a single moment that I didn't love, and it proves to me that it's the band as a whole who are entertaining and brilliant - not just their awesome frontman.
Dave was still the centre of attention, of course. With his light up throne it would be hard not to have all eyes on him for most of the night! He was - understandably - apologetic about the broken leg, saying "the last fucking thing I wanted to do was cancel those shows. I hate cancelling shows! I said we have to get back here as soon as we fucking can. And I have to tell you, I'm so fucking sorry for making you wait so long - there was nothing I could do. So tonight we're going to play some extra long shit for you!". And extra long shit they did play - with a twenty two song setlist including songs that they haven't played since 2012 getting added in as crowd requests, and a cover of Queen featuring a member of Queen and a member of Led Zeppelin. In other words, this was a pretty special show, and it definitely made up for the extra two months of waiting time.
Before they jumped back into their bumper set, Dave took a bit more time to talk about his injury, explaining "I don't usually sit in this awesome fucking throne!" and shouting out to the doctor who treated him - who was actually from London (he jokingly said "someone said there's no good doctors in England!"). He said that at the other shows on the tour, specifically in America ("in some cities I'm like 'dya know why I'm in this fucking throne?' and Denver, Colorado are like 'I don't know, man, why are you in a fucking throne?"), they've been showing a slideshow of images to tell the story, but because they wanted to play as many songs as possible at the show they decided to just show one beautiful image instead - the picture of the throne that Dave drew while high on oxycodone after his operation ("I sent that to the road crew and I said build this!"). The entire reason he drew the throne was because he said there was speculation that they might not have been able to reschedule the dates as quickly as he'd hoped, so he said "I'll get a doctor to put some metal plates in my leg and then I'll sit on a throne for the rest of my fucking tour!". Dave then said "we got a lot of songs to gotta play tonight before they kick us out," and started to prepare to play again, before saying "we gotta play songs from the first record, and the second record, and the third record, and the fourth record, and the fifth record, and the sixth record. How many records do we have? Eight? We'll play from the eighth one too!".
There were multiple moments that made me laugh out loud, but there were also touching aspects to the show as well. One of the more poignant moments was when Dave thanked all of the road crew, most of who have been touring with their band for fifteen or twenty years. He made a special shout out to Dan, their lighting man, and dedicated the slowed down version of 'Big Me' to him - during the song Dan turned the lights out and the entire bowl lit up with mobile phones in the air, which was made even more touching when Dan was shown looking rather emotional on the big screens.
Another high point of the show was following 'Walk' (oh, the irony) when Dave took the time to introduce all of the band members and allow them to do their own things. Talking about Chris Shiflett ("he's fucking... Good. He's the best one in the band! He's the only one that can do that guitar solo thing!"), Rami Jaffee ("the keyboards and the pianos and the things you need to learn how to play"), Nate 'Saint' Mendel (who the audience couldn't see, because "this clumsy throne is blocking your view!"), Pat Smear and "last but not least I want you to meet a friend of mine, and his name's Taylor Hawkins on the drums! In the fucking flesh, about as close as you're ever going to get to him". It shows how tight knit the band are, because it all runs so smoothly - the introductions and the brilliantly performed solos, showing just how vital each member is to the clockwork of this machine. Sometimes - and I hate to admit this! - it seems like some bands have members which seem disposable. This has never been a problem with Foo Fighters - they can all hold their own, and they're all brilliant. To further prove how multi-talented their members are, they followed the solos up with 'A Cold Day In The Sun' - the song that Taylor performs lead vocals on - dedicating it to "bare titty", a drunken shirtless man up on his friends' shoulders.
What followed was the best moment I've ever witnessed at a live show. Dave stopped proceedings to share the fact that "about an hour and a half ago, a couple of our friends showed up and we thought 'oh, maybe we should do a song together!'" and then proceeded to introduce their "two sweet friends", Roger Taylor (ex-Queen drummer) and John Paul Jones (ex-Led Zeppelin bassist). The crowd went crazy as soon as they both arrived, with Dave quipping "I don't know if y'all have ever seen a super group, this is a super duper group! The Foo Fighters right now are living our rock and roll fantasy". Playing 'Under Pressure', John Paul Jones stepped up to the keyboard and Taylor gave his drums over to Roger Taylor, meaning that Taylor and Dave did a brilliantly perfect co-vocal performance on the track. Taylor's vocal is well-exhibited in 'A Cold Day Under The Sun', but not to the extent that it was showcased in this song - I was breathless. If I thought Taylor was talented before, I don't know what to call him now. Sadly, the song was over almost as soon as it began, and while the rest of the set was still brilliantly performed there was no way they could peak any higher than this point. It was touching that they performed a Queen cover, both in a tribute to the band - who were the first band to ever play the Milton Keynes National Bowl - and as a tribute to their lead singer, Freddie Mercury - as the concert fell on what would have been his sixty-ninth birthday.
As well as playing most of their greatest hits, this is still the tour for their most recent album, 'Sonic Highways', so they added in lesser known song 'Outside'. This was the only moment of the set that fell even slightly flat for me - I could see what they were trying to do with the song: the soaring, guitar-filled instrumental section, the five-minute plus playing time... It just didn't compare to their other songs, in that it wasn't one that you could have really sung along to even if you'd known it. It was the only part of the set that didn't work, but I can see that they still had to add in new material - it just seems strange that they played this while omitting greats such as 'My Hero' and 'Long Road To Ruin'. On the other hand, Dave's throne had smoke pouring out from it for most of the song, so it looked absolutely beautiful, even if it was a bit yawn-inducing.
It definitely picked up again following 'Outside', with Dave yelling "we got some old shit that I wanna play for you!". Speeding through 'This Is A Call', Dave asked the crowd if they had any requests, and then said "we're gonna try to do something that we haven't done in a very long time, cause seven people wanna hear it...", asked Pat if he knew the song, and then the band burst into 'DOA'. As this is my all time favourite Foo Fighters song, I was more than a little bit excited - I couldn't help laughing when Dave forgot some of the words, because they have that many songs that I can imagine it would be difficult to keep them all straight in your head! Despite the errors it was still a brilliant performance, and judging by the crowd's reaction they'd be wise to think about putting it in their set more frequently.
The other two 'rarities' that they performed were 'For All The Cows' (before which Dave commented "here's an old one I do remember!") and 'Aurora' - the latter of which was dedicated to super fan, Rose. Dave called out to her in the crowd, saying "when I come out on stage and see you in the front row I know everything's going to be alright", which probably means that she wasn't present at the fateful Swedish concert, but was an extremely touching moment that cemented how caring this band are about their fans - despite the fact that they can sell out stadiums in the blink of an eye.
Closing with 'Best of You' was a no-brainer, because the last time they performed 'Best of You' in Milton Keynes the crowd sang the "oh-oh-oh" refrain between the rest of the songs that they played, meaning it's much easier to just close the show with that one and have done with. Before starting the song, Dave shared that "I would not have this amazing life and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you guys. I always knew we'd come back, I just hoped you would too".
Well, if tonight's anything to go by, the next time that Foo Fighters play in the UK all of the people in this venue will be fighting for tickets. Once you experience one Foo Fighters show, it's impossible to say no to the next, or the next, or the next... So if you're ready to get hooked on the best live experience of your life, go ahead and keep an eye out for their next tour! Hopefully, next time they tour here Dave will have regained full mobility - personally, I'm really going to miss the moving throne, because it was absolutely magical. I just wish I could go back and do it all again already!

Monkey Wrench
Learn To Fly
Something From Nothing
The Pretender
Big Me
A Cold Day In The Sun
Under Pressure cover (ft. John Paul Jones and Roger Taylor)
All My Life
Times Like These
These Days
White Limo
Break Out
This Is A Call
For All The Cows
Best Of You


  1. Great write-up! First time seeing Foo Fighters and they didn't disappoint.

    Also glad I wasn't the only one who found Iggy Pop's performance completely cringe worthy. He seemed completely off his head.

    1. Thank you! They're probably the best band I've seen live - I've seen quite a few, so that's saying something.

      I'm glad you agreed with my opinion of Iggy Pop's set, the prevailing opinion seemed to be that he was amazing! I found it unbearably embarrassing.

  2. Great write-up! First time seeing Foo Fighters and they didn't disappoint.

    Also glad I wasn't the only one who found Iggy Pop's performance completely cringe worthy. He seemed completely off his head.