Foo Fighters at the Verizon Center, Washington DC w/ Social Distortion and the Joy Formidable

Wow!  Just fucking wow!

Dave Grohl relishes the role of Rock Star and guitar Hero, that much is obvious.

He led his crack band through a three hour set last night at the Verizon Center that was alternately exhausting and left the crowd screaming for more.  This is a band at the height of their powers.

After exploding through the first four songs or so, Dave finally addressed the sold out crowd.  It’s not clear who was more excited.

Dave talked about growing up in Northern Virginia, including a rap about how his beloved Springfield Mall has fallen into a state of disrepair, “That shit’s fucked up!”, he commented to the screams of recognition from the crowd.  This was his crowd, his people.  It’s hard to imagine that he connected with the other crowds on the tour like this.  “We’ve played at every shit-hole venue in this town, and now to come home and sell out the biggest arena…!”  It was clear that it was an emotional night for Grohl.  Home.  Dave came home and he brought the party.

And this crowd came to party.  Nineteen thousand strong, standing and screaming along the lyrics for three hours.

The Foo Fighters brought the whole arena rock package with them.  The stage set up included a combo speaker/light rig that was flown from above and moved up and down throughout the show, at one point no more than 10 feet or so over the heads of the band.  The stage itself was a large screen on which  animations and effects were played.  At times this created an almost three dimensional effect.  A long catwalk extended from the front of the stage to a smaller stage that sat in the middle of the arena floor.  It was from this smaller stage that Dave performed a short set of unaccompanied acoustic songs as it raised him up over the crowd.  “Those shitty seats of yours, suddenly aren’t so shitty now are they?”, he asked the fans who were sitting opposite of the stage, behind where a hockey goal is normally installed.  You can guess the kind of response that question received.  Add to that, screens hung on the sides and behind the stage so that even those of us in the nose-bleed seats could see the whites of his eyes. The sound quality was very good, surprisingly so considering we were in a hockey arena.  I was thinking about how much live sound has evolved in the 30 years plus since my first concert in Germany. Gone are the banks of speaker cabinets stacked at the front of the stage, replaced by high efficiency horns flown above the stage and pointed to all four corners of the room.  I love technology!

Going against standard rock concert convention, Dave introduced the band early in the set.  This took on the air of a stand-up routine/roast.  It’s clear that he’s fond of his band and has great respect for their skills.  When he introduced punk rock legend and former and current Foo, Pat Smear, the house just about came down around their ears.  The ovation was thunderous.  He commented to Pat, “don’t move to DC, man – they love you too much here!”  The drummer who needed “no introduction” received almost as loud a response from the crowd.

The set was heavy on songs from the latest album, Wasting Light, interspersed with many of the expected big hits.  During the song Dear Rosemary from the new album, the band was joined onstage by the legendary Bob Mould of Husker Du and Sugar fame, who appears on that song on the album.  Mould is now a DC resident and I was really expecting his appearance.  While not surprised, I was thrilled to get to see such a collaboration.

The Foo Fighters are know for peppering their sets with a few choice cover tunes.  Last night was no exception.  The hit These Days segued into In the Flesh by Pink Floyd.  The Floyd never rocked that tune this hard.  Dave also shared a story about his first young heartbreak as a lead in to a cover of Breakdown by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  He finished his story with “and she’s in the crowd tonight…” as he dropped that iconic opening guitar lick on the crowd.  Of course, we went apeshit!

This easily was the show of the year in a year of some great concerts.  Damn Dave, thanks!

The Foos where supported on this leg of the tour by the fledgling alt-rock act the Joy Formidible from Wales and the Southern California punk rock legends Social Distortion.

The Joy Formidable are a young three piece fronted by a wee blonde pixie of a girl on lead vocals and guitar.  They have scored a couple of hits in the US and are definitely worth listening to, if you haven’t heard them yet.

This is the second time I’ve seen Social D in this building.  The first time was about 10 years ago.  Both times they’ve had to play less than full sets.  I obviously need to take in a full show from these guys.  They closed with their cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, a song that always makes me want to start a band.

Other than flying solo, I couldn’t have asked for a better night.  The Metro in and out was quick and smooth.  I had a nice burger and some half-priced Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA’s at Bar Louie in the adjacent Galleria.  Three dollar DFH’s!  I took that as a good omen.  They even had Starr Hill’s Dark Star Stout at the concession stand inside!

Oh, but don’t worry LeAnn, I had a terrible time…


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