Sunday, June 08, 2008
No Way Back
It's sometime after 7 o'clock on Saturday evening. I'm in Wembley stadium, watching Supergrass storm through 'Caught By The Fuzz.' It still sounds as frankly wonderful as it did when I first heard it as a teenager. And something occurs to me. I lean over to my friend's ear...
"I remember buying Supergrass's debut I Should Coco on cassette in 1995. If someone had said to me then that in 13 years time I'd be watching them supporting the drummer from Nirvana's band at Wembley Stadium, I'd have told them to fuck off."
And so here we are. Dave Grohl stops halfway through Foo Fighters' two and a half hour set and asks "How the fuck did this band become so fucking big?" And I have to smile along with him. I am unquestionably a Foos fan, and have been since 'This Is A Call' all those years ago. And tonight they are undeniably superb. But it is really weird! I mean, how the hell did this happen?
I'm not the type to say I Saw Them First. It's just that Foo Fighters journey to the position of stadium act and arguably biggest rock band in the world feels surreal. Ok, ok, maybe I am being a bit of a snob here. Ok, a lot of a snob. I turn up to the gig in regulation California punk uniform of black shirt and skinny black and red tie. I stand out far more than I thought I would. There are a few emo kids, but the vast majority here are regular folks going to one of their only gigs of the year. Nothing wrong with that. They're just not really my people. Plus I don't like stadium gigs. It sounds like we're listening to the band echoing around a gigantic toilet.
But you can't fault the songs. The first flurry of tracks is simply awe-inspiring. They fling hit after hit at us, only pausing for breath during an extended This Is A Call. Yes, there are indulgent moments. But they seem to be having so much fun ripping through the rock cliches, you can't begrudge them it. Extended widdly guitar work outs? Check. Rotating stage? Check. Meeting the band, with a 30 second triangle solo? Check! But... it's at moments like this that it starts to hit home. I wonder, privately, if they're powering the gig via a dynamo attached to Kurt's coffin. Nirvana just couldn't have played a night like this.
This is of course no detriment to Dave Grohl. Nirvana were a better band, but Kurt couldn't reconcile his success with his own sense of self worth. That was his problem. And because of that, we have Foo Fighters. And Dave Grohl has written some wonderful pop songs. But the early material, especially The Colour and The Shape, had more depth than the shiny stadium rock of late, which is high on hooks, low on nutritional value. That second album was written whilst Grohl was still in the shadow of Nirvana's demise, and during his divorce to his first wife. It's telling that my three favourite Foo Fighters tracks, Monkey Wrench, Everlong and Walking After You, all feature on that record. Each subsequent release has been glossier, poppier and more successful, as Dave's life has gotten better and better.
Dave Grohl is a happy man with a wife and kids and one of the biggest bands in the world. He deserves it all. I've still got my copy of The Colour And The Shape. It's soundtracked my deepest love and most painful heartbreak, and I know it will again. And they're still one of the best live bands I've ever seen (they're joined for the encore by John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, and tellingly the two songs they do are my least favourite of the night. Never liked Led Zep. Faux mystical cock rock bollocks. Courtney Love would've been so much more fun.) But those old songs still touch me in a fantastic way, and I look up into the darkening sky over Wembley and scream into the night...
One last thing before I quit, I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head. I still remember every single word you said and all the shit that somehow came along with it, still there's one thing that comforts me since I was always caged and now I'm free!They finish with Best Of You, and the crowd go appropriately mad. Dave breaks down with emotion. (The second time I've seen a rock frontman blub in a month! What's wrong with these people?) Quite brilliant. Everyone, from middle aged grunge survivors to kids going to their first gig, leaves beaming from ear to ear.
And you all know the drill by now...
1. Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench
2. Spiritualized - You Lie You Cheat
3. Blur - Trouble In The Message Centre
4. Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down
5. Metronomy - Radio Ladio
6. Omni Trio - Renegade Snares (High Contrast Remix)
7. Bat For Lashes - What's A Girl To Do
8. The Ronettes - Be My Baby
9. Annie - Heartbeat
10. Death From Above 1979 - Dead Womb
11. Post War Years - Black Morning
12. Foo Fighters - Home
I'm still bummed out that I never got to see Nirvana live. Oh well... whatever...
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