Would you literally fly a thousand miles just to see your favorite artist perform live? For many Filipino Foo Fighters fans, the answer was simple: Heck, yeah!
The last time the Seattle-born rock outfit was in this part of the world was in 1996, when former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl made his debut as a frontman and songwriter. Over two decades and eight critically acclaimed albums later, the Foos finally returned to Asia, this time with a boatload of hits and a host of slightly older but still rabid followers to welcome them with open arms.
With only two stops, Manila sadly not included, Pinoy fans only had two choices: Fly to Seoul, Bangkok or Singapore to watch their childhood heroes perform the very songs they grew up with, or stay at home and wait some more. Obviously, we chose the former—we promptly packed our bags for Singapore and were rewarded with a veritable two-hour moshfest that was, quite literally, a long time coming.
Bearded, black-clad frontman Dave Grohl and his crew instantly had the 25,000-strong crowd working up a sweat with an explosive two-song opening salvo, consisting of the vintage track “I’ll Stick Around” from its eponymous debut and “All My Life” from 2002’s “One by One.”
This was followed by “Learn To Fly,” a classic nod to the band’s penchant for fun pop-rock tunes and hilarious vids, then brought it back up to mosh pit levels with “The Pretender.”
The frenetic chart-topper from 2008’s “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” made for a perfect live track, showcasing Grohl’s signature raspy screams as guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Hawkins gleefully thrashed away on their respective instruments.
When the frontman half-jokingly called the Foos a “dad band,” he probably wasn’t just referring to their ages. The melee in the mosh pit area combined with the sweltering Singapore heat likely prompted a concerned Grohl to give some fatherly advice early in the set: Look out for those who were about to pass out (and there were quite a few who did). “If you’re okay, I’m okay,” he said, drawing cheers.
The Foos sampled a couple of newer tracks—“Run” from upcoming “Concrete and Gold” album and “Something From Nothing” from 2014’s “Sonic Highways”—before going back down ‘90s rock memory lane with the indefatigable 20-year-old anthem “My Hero” from “The Colour and the Shape.”
We’re not exactly sure why Grohl thinks they’re old, but the band’s collective energy was as youthful and infectious as the ear-to-ear grins on each of the members’ faces flashing across the LED screens. Not bad for a “dad band.” Not bad at all.
Mid-set, Grohl took the time to properly introduce his band members in a sort-of tribute to legendary artists. They did snippets of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” to flaunt Shiflett’s shredding skills; Ramones’ “Blitkrieg Bop” for Smear’s bouncy riffs; and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” for Mendel’s funk bass intro, with Hawkins taking on vocal duties for the latter. This also marks the official introduction of keyboardist Rami Jaffee as the sixth Foo.
While there’s no denying that each member is talented in his own right, what makes the Foos extra endearing is their easy rapport with the crowd and with each other. When the audience randomly started humming the bass intro to The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” the band wryly played along for a bit until Grohl stopped them.
“Wrong band,” he said with a smirk, amid laughter.
In between high-energy tracks and searing guitar faceoffs, Grohl gifted the audience with a couple of tender breathers. Waxing sentimental, he remembered performing in Singapore for the first time 21 years ago to a much smaller crowd, so he dedicated a slower version of early favorite “Big Me” to the ones who had waited patiently for the band’s return.
“You’ gonna make me cry,” he said, voice cracking with emotion as crowd sang along with him.
Several more mid-to-late 2000s hits followed: “Congregation,” “Walk,” “These Days,” and “Rope” before Grohl and his bright blue guitar serenaded the crowd yet again, this time with a stripped-down solo for the first half of “Times Like These.”
“I like to sing it like this,” Grohl remarked, and we couldn’t agree more. A single as popular as (if not more than) the full-band track, the acoustic version of “Times” perfectly highlights the melancholy, introspective nature of Grohl’s songwriting. For some strange reason, what made these tender moments even more memorable is the image of Chris Cornell looking serenely at the crowd from the drum kit— presumably a quiet tribute to a fallen comrade.
The band performed one more oldie but goodie (“Breakout”) before launching into one of the band’s most iconic anthems to date. Both desperate and defiant, “Best of You” from 2005’s “In Your Honor” is a fist-pumping, scream-along track that could have served as the cathartic climax to any Foo show. But of course, it wouldn’t be a Foo show without the one song that started it all.
“Hello, I’ve waited here for you—everlong,” we sang despite being out of breath and dizzy from dehydration. Beside us, a couple started crying in each other’s arms, and we couldn’t blame them— “Everlong” at its core is a bittersweet love song, after all.
But more than that, it might as well have been a love song to the Foos themselves, from the fans who had literally waited decades to see them.
True to its word, the band didn’t have any encore sets to play, but people didn’t seem to mind. Bursts of whoa-oh’s from “Best of You” could be heard all around even as we all walked out of the stadium, drenched in sweat and high on life.