The last time Foo Fighters played in Madison, George W. Bush was president, “Brokeback Mountain” won film of the year and I was somewhere navigating middle school. Clearly, much has changed since then, yet for the Foo Fighters it's been in all of the best ways. This past Tuesday evening, the Foo Fighters cemented their place as rock gods to a sold out crowd in the Kohl Center.
However, before I dive into the main attraction, I have to mention the evening’s opener, The Struts. Starting promptly at 7:30 p.m., the British glamour rock band made me feel like I stepped into a time capsule from the British Invasion with sounds reminiscent of The Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger. Not to mention their latex covered, Ziggy Stardust look alike of a lead singer Luke Spiller and his impressive array of vocals. The 40-something crowd was docile for most of The Struts’ performance but they did not overstay their welcome, thanks to a tight and well rehearsed set that only lasted 40 minutes. Even on a tongue-in-cheek quip at the audience, Spiller thanked everyone for coming though he knew, “None of you are here to see us, but we will warm you up.” I appreciated the nostalgia I felt watching these entertainers and I'll definitely be on the lookout for their new album dropping early 2018.
After a brief intermission, the Foo Fighters hit the stage like a meteor at 9 p.m. sharp. The Kohl Center’s capabilities as an arena venue were flexed to an impressive degree with an estimated 30,000 person attendance. Alongside a 2,500 square foot stage and a light show to match, the production was impressive and it spread the six band members well. Not to mention the newly added angelic chorus of three back up singers and keyboardist, Rami Jaffee, featured on the Fighter’s latest album, Concrete and Gold.
Frontman lead singer and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, jokingly bantered with the audience in between tracks that, “We can play songs from our first, second, third, maybe fourth or even fifth and sixth album if you guys would like.” The rapid fire of songs seamlessly flowed on a roller coaster of energy exerted by each of the member’s skillful cohesion with one another. The only real hiccup of the evening came during the billboard shattering performance of “Walk,” when Grohl could not muster the vocal amplitude for the “I never wanna die” portion in the tail end of the song.
However, Grohl did make up for this stumble with a great bit of banter, telling the crowd, “I’ll teach you how to scream,” only to fully commit to a Muppets/Fighters rendition of “Mahna Mahna,” in which 30,000 people went “doo doo.” It was within genuine moments like this, which peppered across the evening, that kept me enthralled and convinced that the Fighter’s were playing not to make more money but genuinely entertain the fans they accumulated over the last three decades.
The band’s first actual pause, where music wasn’t being played, did not come until a full hour into the show when Grohl welcomed everyone to a “real f**king rock show” in which they would play until they “literally can’t anymore.” Luckily for Madison’s audience, the band was fresh off a week long break and held up to Grohl’s promise. With a legendary three hour long set, each member was given a segment to flex their skill and entertain the audience with a first-rate solo.
The production of the show sat in a class of its own, though it provided both the biggest highlights and disappointments of the evening. With EDM artists like DeadMau5 and ZEDD dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into light boards and pyrotechnics, the Fighter’s innovated in a unique fashion. Two hours into the set, the audience was treated to a thunderous drum solo as Taylor Hawkins ascended 30 feet into the air, thanks to a hydraulics system grid. The entire stage, alongside its light system, also transformed throughout the evening. These shifts were mostly positive and added to the show, up until a diamond light board descended just 10 feet above the band and restricted the view for the entire audience except those directly in front of the pit. The showcased engineering was impressive but the restricted view made little sense as roughly 30 percent of the audience actually got to benefit from the production’s transformation.
However, this drawback only lasted for two songs as the stage returned to its previous state and the band approached its three-hour mark. As expected, the band came back for an all but predictable encore, yet only after working up the crowd to chant for “five more songs.”
In all sincerity, the $100 asking price for nosebleed seats may seem steep, but after summing the showmanship and entertainment value of the evening, it makes sense that the tickets sold out within 10 minutes of being posted. I suggest fans of not just rock but music in general to jump on the opportunity to attend a Foo Fighter’s show, as they will undoubtedly get a memorable and once-in-a-lifetime experience.