Concert Review: Foo Fighters – Live At Madison Square Garden

Ok, so I’m an 80’s metal guy, through and through. I grew up on bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Anthrax, Guns N Roses, Skid Row, Motley Crue, KISS, Stryper, Queensryche..I could go on and on, but you get the point. I became a full-fledged “metal head” around 1988, and never looked back, embracing the music, the look and the lifestyle at the ripe young age of 14. I was the guy in high school with long hair, ripped jeans and concert t-shirts, sporting a denim jacket with the band patch on the back and buttons on the front, and wearing skull and cross earrings. It was a look I wore with pride, and I was pretty much the last of my friends to cut their hair (my one buddy did it about 10 years ago, and it was literally just a pony tail with short hair all the way around, so I don’t count that), and I didn’t do so until 1993, when I was 19, and I did so very begrudgingly.

From pretty much the moment it first exploded on the scene with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, opening the floodgates, alternative rock and grunge were the enemy for me, as it killed all of the bands I listened to, and the music I loved. The bands that I had seen in concert filling 18,000 seat arenas and selling millions of albums in 1991, suddenly could barely fill 1,000 seat clubs by the fall of 1992, and as a loyal metal head, that made me angry, and I refused to embrace the music. In fact, it took a good 5 years before I finally started to appreciate and like alternative rock. Finally around 1997, I started to venture outside my comfort zone. And now years later, I like a variety of grunge and alternative bands. But for whatever reason, I never paid much attention to the Foo Fighters. That all changed in 2011 when I started listening to a local rock station on a regular basis, and pretty much heard them every day. They have since become one of my favorite bands, and a bucket list band for me to see live. I had 2 opportunities to see them on previous tours, and struck out both times. Well, the check mark finally went next to their name this past Monday, July 16th as I finally saw them at Madison Square Garden.

One thing I was very curious about, was how the Foo’s would open the show, as I have seen everything from Iron Maiden using video intros with Ed Force One, to the dramatic build ups that KISS would use when the house lights would drop, and you would hear a low humming bass before that familiar, gruff voice would scream, “YOU WANTED THE BEST? YOU GOT THE BEST!”, and the band would hit the stage with a flurry of pyrotechnics and smoke bombs. There was none of that here. The house lights dropped and the 20,000 fans in the jam packed Garden barely had a chance to let that first roar out before the band came running on to the stage playing loud power cords on their instruments and drummer Taylor Hawkins banging away on his set. This lasted about 45 seconds before Dave Grohl let loose with a few of his trademark ear-piercing screams (RAAAAAHHHH!!!!”), before asking the crowd 3 times, “ARE YOU READY?!?!”, and immediately ripping into the opening chords of, “All My Life”. This set the pace for a high energy show filled with many of those same screams, that I honestly don’t how he was still doing (with relative ease I might add) 2 and half hours later, plus singing great and running all over the stage like a maniac.

The band went right into the “Learn To Fly”, which by that point the scent of a certain herbal “element” had permeated the air, prompting Grohl to say into the microphone mid-song,”Ooh it smells good in here right now!” “Pretender” was next, which was extended into the first of many improvisational jams, and lots of audience participation, as Dave asked the crowd a few times, “Do you love Rock N Roll?” even doing a tribute to Chuck Berry’s trademark duck-walk. Newer songs, “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”, and “Rope” followed, along with a great drum solo by Taylor Hawkins which featured his drum kit rising into the air on hydraulic lifts (no doubt a tribute to one of the band’s biggest influences, KISS).

Another new song, “Sunday Rain” followed after that, and then Dave formally said hello to the sold out Garden crowd (with a couple of ear piercing screams to start), asking not only how many people had seen the Foo Fighters before, but how many had not. And I almost felt as if Dave was speaking directly to me when he said, “We’re gonna show you why it was a good thing that you waited almost 23 f***ing years to see our band!”. What followed next was one of the highlights of the night, an epic performance of, “My Hero” which started off with Dave softly strumming the main riff on guitar and singing it slowly, before the full band kicked in, with breakdowns at various points to allow the crowd to sing acapella in unison, “Theeeere gooooes my hero”. That lead into “One Of These Days” which was almost as epic, and slowed things down just a bit, but not much, as the chorus was still full bore, and heavy, but the beauty of the slow parts and the way he held the audience spellbound and in the palm of his hand must have moved Dave, because at one point during a stoppage in the song, he simply looked at the crowd and said to them, “I can’t believe this is my f***ing job!” prompting both a roar and laughter.  At this point we were only a quarter of a way through the set, and this was already one of the best shows I had ever seen.

After picking the pace back up with an old time Foo’s classic, “Walk”, the band loosened up a little (as if they weren’t already) and had some fun with band intros, and a bluesy jam that included a bit from Queen’s, “Another One Bites The Dust”, and then segued into “La Dee Da” off the new album, and featuring guest saxophonist Dave Koz. At this point, Dave decided that the audience needed to be brought together with a song of “love and hope”. That song humorously turned out to be Van Halen’s, “Jump” sang to the melody of John Lennon’s, “Imagine” with Hawkins joining in on backing vocals. This was another highlight of the night as the band really proved that beyond the loud guitars and thundering drums, they truly were just enjoying themselves up there. The band then ripped into a cover of the Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop” with guitarist, Pat Smear showing his former Nirvana roots and opening with a riff that had just a touch of “Breed” to it . The fun continued with Hawkins coming out from behind his kit to join Luke Spiller, lead vocalist of opening act, the Struts (who were really good in their own set, by the way) for a cover of Queen’s, “Under Pressure”. Dave Grohl took his old spot behind the drums for this song. That concluded the covers and goofing around (for the most part), as the latter part of the show picked back up the ferocious pace and kept it up for the rest of the night.

The band started that pace with “Monkey Wrench”, and continued with new song, “Run” and then my second favorite song from the band, “Breakout”. This featured another extended jam by the band, and a particular concentration on Hawkins’ drumming, before breaking down into a quiet, eery strumming of the guitar, with the entire stage going dark, and a few cellphone flashlights coming out, prompting Dave to encourage everyone to, “be my light show”. The audience gladly complied making the pitch black Garden look like an old school metal show during a power ballad, before the band put the finishing touches on the song, ending with a fury and more trademark screams from Grohl.

“Dirty Water” from the new album followed next, featuring Dave Grohl’s daughter, Violet and 3 other girls on backing vocals. And then came the moment that I had been waiting for all night, which was my favorite Foo Fighters song, “Best Of You” to close the first set. Not surprisingly, this was another highlight of the show as the band extended it out to almost 12 minutes, breaking it down 3 minutes in to just Dave’s light strumming, compelling the entire audience to spontaneously sing the trade mark “woohh ooh oh..woohh ooh oh..”part of the song as the band went into a melodic, jazz influenced jam. This continued for a few minutes until another breakdown that brought back the audience participation sing along. This was probably the most beautiful part of the night. So much so that at one point the band just stopped playing and let the crowd sing accapella, prompting Dave to say, “That’s some real s*** right there!”, and then after a minute or so, jokingly saying, “Can we finish the rest of the f***ing song??”, which they did, ending it with a fury, as the band left the stage to let anticipation build towards the final encore. As that anticipation built for a few minutes, Dave finally appeared on the big screen backstage to tease the crowd, holding up various finger combinations to ask how many songs they wanted to hear. The crowd booed at 1 and 2, cheered for 3, but thanks to previous set lists being online knew they were getting 4, despite Dave stubbornly insisting, “Alright ..3 more!” before jokingly relenting, “We’ll see what happens…let’s ease into this.”. The band then went old school with “Big Me” off the first album, which admittedly is probably my least favorite song from the band, but they did a good job with it, doing a slower version with mostly just guitar and minimal bass and drums. “Times Like These” picked the pace back up next, followed by “This Is A Call”, with Dave reminding everyone halfway through, “I said 3 songs, right?”. With the crowd voicing their disapproval, he defiantly said, “F*** you, I said 3!”, and then went right back into the song, before finishing it with some playful jamming with Pat Smear, showing the obvious chemistry between the 2 long time friends and former Nirvana bandmates. Dave then addressed the crowd one more time saying, “I said 3 songs..but I think I love you, so we might do one more!”. And then after thanking the old school fans for sticking with them for 23 years, and the newer fans for coming out, and promising to come back to the Garden if they would, said, “This one’s for you!”, the band finished with the epic, “Everlong” which is probably the most popular of all Foo Fighter songs, and had the entire place on their feet singing it word for word.

This was by far one of, if not, THE BEST concerts I have ever attended, and I have seen many great bands and artists over the years. From the fun, club atmosphere of Stryper, to the over the top, bombastic and make-up laden shows of KISS, to the various Eddie themed shows of the mighty Iron Maiden, to the thrashy assault of Metallica, to the theatrical performances of Queensryche, and the near album sounding perfection of the Eagles, the Foo Fighters got up on the stage of the fabled Madison Square Garden, with no pyro, no make-up, no theatrics…and levitating drum riser, and killer light show aside, no other real props, and quite simply kicked a** for 3 hours of fun, good old fashioned Rock-N-Roll. This was a throwback show for the ages, to a time when artists simply relied on their talent as musicians, and connected with the audience in a way very few bands can do these days. I highly recommend you catch this show if they are in your neighborhood anytime soon. You will NOT be disappointed.


All My Life

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Rope / Drum Solo

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days


Lead Guitar solo

Another One Bites the Dust

La Dee Da

Keyboard Solo

Imagine / Jump

Blitzkrieg Bop

Under Pressure

Monkey Wrench



Dirty Water

Best of You


Big Me

Times Like These

This Is a Call


What do you think?

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Written by Tony Grater

Radio Producer and Engineer for iHeartMedia in New York City. Lover of God, Family, Music and THAT order. Married with 2 children, lives in New Jersey. Life verse is John 14:6


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