Dave Grohl has sung the words to ‘Times Like These’ thousands of times, to millions of people, but it’s hard to imagine they’ve ever connected as deeply as they did on Friday night in Geelong.
“It’s times like these you learn to live again” – with these words, Grohl and his fellow Foo Fighters brought live stadium rock back to Australia, kicking off a two-and-a-half hour rock masterclass with a stripped back version of the song, before letting rip on a raucous rendition of ‘The Pretender’.
After two years of being starved of international touring, nothing, not even torrential rain, was going to stop the 25,000 people lucky enough to score a ticket to this historic event from making the most of every moment. The ever hyperactive Foo Fighters seemed to both incite and thrive off this spirit as they tore through a list of hits from their impressive catalogue.
‘Learn To Fly’ inspired a stadium-wide singalong; ‘No Son Of Mine’ and ‘Rope’ had the ground shaking thanks to the thunderous drumming of Taylor Hawkins and the rawer side of Grohl’s vocalisations; an unhinged ‘Breakout’ brought Geelong to fever pitch it hadn’t experienced since the Geelong Cats’ drought-breaking flag in 2007.
The unmatched energy of live rock coursed through the bodies of both crowd and band. Grohl, Hawkins, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shifflet, bass player Nate Mendel and organist Rami Jaffee wore grins wider than the epic stage they performed on as they grooved to ‘Shame Shame’. Grohl conducted a choir made up of every person in attendance for the first half of the epic, slow-burning anthem ‘My Hero’. Elation, joy and pure, unadulterated emotion flowed from everyone in attendance; from the Grohl described “Gandalf looking motherfucker” in the front row to the young parents with their kids at their first show, who learned their first swear word in the best possible way.
The likes of ‘These Days’ and ‘Walk’ provided a moment of reflection and a chance to take in the scope of the show, before the transformation into the Dee Gees for a hysterical run through the Bee Gees’ ‘You Should Be Dancing’. Grohl and Hawkins swapped roles for an eccentric and elaborate cover of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’, proving that even after 26 years of rocking stadiums, Foo Fighters are still as in love with this stuff as the rest of us. Hawkins’ performance upfront was a not-so-subtle reminder that the Foo Fighters really are a supergroup. As if to ram this point home, Grohl gave each member a brief chance to show off their skills, with each treated like hometown heroes, while letting slip that the Foo Fighters will be back for a full tour complete with “ten-minute solos for each member”.
That sneaky announcement kicked the already excitable audience up another notch, which was exactly where they needed to be for a ferocious ‘All My Life’, which lit the fuse on a hit-laden six-song finish comprising a rocking ‘This Is A Call’, an impromptu and tender ‘Big Me’, a frantic ‘Best Of You’ and ‘Monkey Wrench’ and an epic version of the band’s signature smash, ‘Everlong’ – dedicated to late Aussie music industry icon, Michael Gudinski – that built in intensity before finishing with literal fireworks. It was the perfect ending to a night that reminded us all of what we’ve been missing for so long.
Special mention has to go to veteran Melbourne punk rockers The Meanies who opened the night in inspired style, proving they have a lot of rocking left in them, and to the always entertaining, party inciting pub-punks Amyl and The Sniffers, whose main support slot set inspired love, laughter and a few circle pits. Kudos also to the community spirit of the crowd and security that resulted in two large cup towers being connected to form an archway over the crowd partition. That was a special moment worthy of the applause it received.