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Concert Reviews:
Foo Fighters keep their fans up late at the Palace

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- If someone you know appears bleary eyed and sluggish this morning, go easy on them.

They may have been at the Foo Fighters show on Monday night, Sept. 19, at the Palace.

Throwing a gleeful middle finger at any work or school responsibilities looming the next morning, Dave Grohl and company put on a blustery, ferocious rock 'n' roll show -- make that RAWK~! 'n' Roll -- whose two hours and 50 minutes sent the non-sellout crowd of 13,000 streaming out of the Palace just a bit before midnight. Few were checking their watches, however; though the show was long to a fault, the Foos, and Grohl in particular, displayed a deft knack for making sure that everyone had a good time.

Through sheer force of personality and a ubiquitous presence on the rock scene, Grohl has become the coolest dude in popular music, an amiable goofball with a teenager's exuberance and an indefatigable, Springsteen-like energy when it comes to live performance. He's also written a few dozen top-notch tunes since launching the Foos after Nirvana's tragic ending in 1994, and he clearly doesn't like to keep any of them on the shelf -- though in concert those songs take on a crunchy, metallic mania that's notably more extreme and frayed than their carefully crafted studio counterparts.

On Monday, the quintet -- abetted on several songs by former Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee -- delivered 26 nuggets from its seven-album catalog, including eight from this year's chart-topping "Wasting Light." And while the group's last stop here, in the spring of 2008 at Joe Louis Arena, mixed the loud stuff with sets of chamber-like, softer material, this time the Foos brought nothing but the noise, save for Grohl's solo acoustic encore performances of "Long Road to Ruin" and "Best of You" on an elevated second stage near the back of the Palace floor.

What's particularly striking about the Foos in concert is that Grohl gets away with a wealth of rock 'n' roll cliches -- the elongated song arrangements, the Rock Start 101 poses, gestures and stage patter -- that he and his fans might ordinarily make fun of other bands for employing. On Tuesday he milked applause with the same dramatic pauses and wide-eyed, aw-shucks countenance of any pop diva. And like Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, you got the sense there was nothing he wouldn't do to get a rise out of the crowd. But in this case it worked because Grohl was clearly sincere about the latter part, yet made it just as clear he didn't take any of it all that seriously.

That alone would have been enough to carry the night, but the Foos also had the benefit of all those songs -- anthems such as "The Pretender," "My Hero," "Learn to Fly," "Generator," "This is Call," "Times Like These," a formidable sampling of so-called "alternative" rock radio of the past nearly two decades. The thrashy "Breakout" was a nod back to the earliest days of the Foos, which Grohl created as a one-man project. "Monkeywrench" and "Stacked Actors," meanwhile, were stretched to epic proportions, the latter featuring Grohl and Chris Shiflett in a guitar duel from opposite ends of the arena. The "Wasting Light" selections fit comfortably next to the Foos' established material, while encore covers of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Breakdown" and Queen's "Tie Your Mother Down," the latter sung by drummer Taylor Hawkins, led into the soaring closer "Everlong."

As he was saying goodnight, Grohl quipped that "we gotta write some more songs so we can come play and play for three and a half hours!" Few who were at the Palace on Monday would try to dissuade him of that.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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