What a week it’s been for Foo Fighters: They played as the last musical guests for The David Letterman Show, headlined Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and started their European tour. So what better place to start than where they headlined the Big Weekend a decade ago – Sunderland. This premier-league football stadium has seen many acts over the past 6 years – from pop acts like Rihanna and Take That, rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi to indie icons Oasis and Kings Of Leon. So where do Foo Fighters fit in? After RHCP, they are probably the most ‘alternative’ act to grace this stage.
Support comes from The Strypes, indie pop from Ireland that doesn’t really fit the Foo’s demographic. Following them are chart-topping lads from Leeds, Kaiser Cheifs. They are more in-kin with Dave Grohl’s radio-friendly rock ‘n’ roll but just do what they came for – warm up the crowd. It’s a happy coincidence that Kaiser Cheifs played on the same bill as Foo’s last time they played a gig this size in the North-East. Then again so were Black Eye Peas.
There are more Nirvana tee’s floating around than Foo’s merch but the crowd still react just as avidly as Grohl, Hawkins, Smear, Mendell and Shiflet walk on stage. The rock-God that is Dave Grohl announces: “Let’s start this how we finished last time”. The band start the 26-song set with classic ‘Everlong’. Being someone who saw this band last time they played Wearside (in 2005) I remember they finished with this song. Dave has some memory!
Sticking with their 1997 album ‘Colour and the Shape’ ( which has just turned 18) ‘Monkey Wrench’ get the more old-school fans pumped for a great night. Classic after classic in this set list as ‘Learn To Fly’ immediately follows. A risky move by any established band to blow their load on tracks people come to see first. The Foo’s continue with ‘The Pretender’, ‘Rope’ and a down-tempo rendition of ‘Big Me’ from their debut album.
A few tunes from their latest LP ‘Sonic Highways’ don’t have the same reaction but still sound brilliant live. Dave even dedicates their latest hit ‘Congregation’ to his new buddy Taylor Swift. At this point Mr Grohl acknowledges the back of the stadium and moves over to end of the T-bar stage stretching through the middle of the standing audience. An accordion player accompanies a rarely-heard rendition of ‘Skin and Bones’ followed by an emotional acoustic version of ‘My Hero’.
The rest of the gang join Dave in the middle as they play around with snippets of Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and the lead vocal duties are handed to drumming maestro Taylor Hawkins for ‘Cold Day In The Sun’. This is followed by Grohl telling us they have enough time to play a few of their favourite songs. Naturally we start with a bit of The Police’s ‘Next To You’ quite appropriate as Taylor also also plays in a Police tribute band (The Cops). Followed by the aptly titled ‘Let There Be Rock’ originally by AC/DC and Queen /Bowie classic ‘Under Pressure’ as a duet between Dave and Taylor.
You thought all the classics were done, you would be wrong. Grohl tells us they don’t do encores, they just play the way through. This is confirmed when the spiky intro for ‘All My Life’ starts. The whole crowd bounce along. When you thought they could do no more ‘These Days’ keep our attention before an epic part acoustic, part electric arrangement of ‘Time Like These’.
Going back to 1995, the Foo’s bring a bit of Seattle to Sunderland with one of their first single ‘This Is A Call’ a great nod to their older fans, and finish off with a ‘whoa-ohhh’ sing-along of ‘Best Of You’ a track that defined their last set in the North-East and now closes tonight’s mammoth gig. Without doubt the greatest band to grace this venue, and a phenomenal start to Foo Fighters’ heroic European tour which will conclude with the band’s Glastonbury headline slot.