Throughout the past few months, the rumour mill has been ablaze with whispers that Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has been struggling.
Could Dave Grohl’s voice be permanently damaged? publications have asked, a morbid curiosity causing fans to closely consider whether those roars at the end of The Pretender have been less powerful than normal.
It wouldn’t be too surprising, as the band have been touring pretty much ceaselessly since their formation in 1994, playing sprawling sets that regularly clock up to almost three hours in length. Not many people would be able to maintain that level of performance; not even the man heralded the ‘nicest guy in rock’.
Due to these rumours, there was a level of apprehension brewing in the crowd at London Stadium as stage time approached, battling with the buzz of excitement which was quickly reaching a fever pitch.
After hit and miss supports (Starcrawler concerning the audience as their frontwoman covered herself in fake blood and attacked fans in the front row, Slaves getting the stadium rocking before The Kills elicited a more subdued response) and five and a half hours of blazing, almost unbearably hot sunshine, the 66,000 attendees couldn’t wait for the legendary six-piece to take to the stage.
Kicking off the monstrously long set with a triple whammy of All My Life, Learn To Fly and The Pretender, London Stadium erupted into action: arms waving, feet dancing, heads thrown back in song.
The Pretender had an extended bridge perfectly drawn out for a quick nip to the loos (the humble reviewer is but human, and the toilet queues between acts weren’t a battle worth fighting), but things ground to a halt during Rope, which was split with an insanely long drum solo.
Some might call it self-indulgent, some might call it showing off, but when a band has been onstage for forty minutes and have only played five songs, it does take the piss a little bit.
Especially when you consider the fact that Taylor Hawkins’ sprawling, twenty-minute solo caused the band to cut their encore in half, skipping fan favourite Times Like These to be able to finish their set before curfew.
Yes, he’s talented, but everyone in attendance already knew that. The band wouldn’t have gotten this far if their skill wasn’t a well-known fact.
Things picked up again after Sunday Rain – another song which was extended, timing in at almost ten minutes – but the damage had been done.
Huge swathes of the crowd were now feeling lethargic and unenthused in comparison to the frenetic energy which dominated the first ten minutes of their set.
If they’d chosen to forego the faff and squeeze in a few more gems from their (ridiculously large) back catalogue, it would have been a more successful outing.
The reappearance of The Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart during collaboration La Dee Da was a highlight of the set, as was the mash-up of Van Halen’s Jump and John Lennon’s Imagine – a combination which shouldn’t have worked but was highly compelling – but this night didn’t show the Foos at the top of their game.
The material from Concrete and Gold sticks out like a sore thumb. Dirty Water acted more like sludgy mud as it endlessly plodded along, and although Taylor Hawkins’ vocal sounded superb on Sunday Rain it just didn’t set the crowd alight.
Run and The Sky is a Neighbourhood both received fairly warm reactions, but this audience was obviously in attendance to hear the classics, not the new stuff and pairing Best of You and Everlong at the end of the set meant that the night finished on a high.
It’s impossible not to enjoy yourself at a Foo Fighters show, that’s an undeniable fact.
However, whereas Grohl and the gang ordinarily draw you in, sweeping you along in a rock ‘n’ roll frenzy so that the night is over before you really believe it’s begun, this set just wasn’t wholly absorbing.