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Thursday, 10 September 2015

A View From Satan's Layby: Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters, Iggy Pop & Royal Blood, Milton Keynes Bowl

As Foo Fighters frontman, the perennially upbeat Dave Grohl put it we all knew why this show happened they way it happened and why he insisted that we have something special. But enough about that for now back to the beginning. The Foos were due to play in London earlier this year however while on tour in Sweden Grohl fell off the stage and broke his leg, this put the tour in doubt but with some good doctors and fantastic self designed throne  Grohl was able to continue the tour with the UK dates now rescheduled to two nights at Milton Keynes Bowl and one in at Murrayfield in Scotland. Tickets went on sale and on the second round of ticketing I managed to bag one to see the band that I had never seen live. So as the day arrived, I set out at around 12:30, picking up my gigging companions Anthony and Elle on the way. As the quaffed beer and ate rolls we set out on the long journey to Milton Keynes, the excitement in the car was palpable (as was the beer) as we chatted and mused upon all manner of things while we made our way. We stopped just outside Milton Keynes at a nice little pub for refreshment of both kinds, albeit forgoing a meal due to the extortionate prices. Back in the car it was to the venue and finding somewhere to park was turning into a one in one out affair, abandoning the idea of the 'official' car park we settled for a street near the venue and took the short walk to it.

However due to the Foo's need to play for three hours at 5:30 we heard Royal Blood (8) come on the stage to Jay Z's 99 Problems before moving rapidly into Come On Over, from what we heard they sounded in fine form and they grew louder as we neared. Into the bowls of the arena, it was cursory search and then a walk around the outside of the field as Royal Blood rocked out with You Can Be So Cruel. Up to the stairs and into the bowl itself, the size of the venue takes your breath away, 125,000 people all in one place, we worked our way through the crowds and took a seat on the hill as Royal Blood then played their most well known songs Figure It Out, Little Monster and Ten Tonne Skeleton, they are very loud for a two piece (just bass and drums) and their songs receive a lot of airplay on FM radio so it was no wonder why the crowd lapped them up like cream. They are both great players and despite their only being two of them they do have a sense of drama about their performance. With only two songs left we ate our provisions as my companions found more lubrication. They ended with Out Of The Black which was a heavyweight final song where they segued into Black Sabbath at the end with a nod and a wink to the metal fans in the audience. This was to become a bit of a theme actually as you do tend to get a lot of people at gigs of this magnitude that go for the event and aren't really interested in the music other than the 'hits' they know.

Iggy Pop's (7) set suffered due to this, a punk rock legend is known for his riotous live shows and his laissez-faire attitude towards his personal safety however he is now a man of advancing years (and indeed a insurance salesman) so the self harm was kept to a minimum although within one song he was shirtless. Iggy came straight out the gates with No Fun, I Wanna Be Your Dog, The Passenger and Lust For Life all in rapid succession, now the crowd grooved to these well known tracks but on the other hand as soon as Skull Ring started there was a noticeable lull in the enthusiasm this continued through the majority of the set with only really the hardcore getting stuck in. Iggy swivelled and shook throughout the set and his performance and that of his bands was tight and structured however it was the crowd that let him down with only 1969 and Wild One getting any reaction for the mid part of the set. For an hour the set was a bit of hard work for the most part due to Iggy blowing his load early, consequently by the time he played the doom laden slow moving final track many had completely lost interest and were waiting for the headline act. So after Pop had finished it was time for another drink at £5.00 per bottle alcohol was consumed sparingly from my companions, we waited as the stage turned over the works hidden by a huge FF banner.

So this was the time (and indeed a call) and as the banner dropped The Foo Fighters (10) exploded with the sublime Everlong, the band were spot on nailing every lick brilliantly, Grohl rocked himself silly atop his throne stabbing at his guitar and delivering every line with passion, his voice is faultless going from croon to scarred grunge roar with ease, he is a man that clearly enjoys his work and happily the crowd reciprocated this and were duly rewarded for their loyalty. The Foo's opening gambit was better than many bands encores with Everlong starting things off it was Monkey Wrench, Learn To Fly, Something For Nothing and The Pretender all following having the crowd shouting along with every line as the fans got their breath back I took in just how heavy The Foos are live, not metallic but just loud and professional the triple guitars of Grohl, Chris Schiflett and Pat Smear give the band a wide breath of sound with Nate Mendel's bass holding it all together as Taylor Hawkins drums for his life. With The Pretender still ringing in our collective ears, Grohl slowed everything down for an almost acoustic and solo rendition of Big Me which yet again saw the crowd in fine voice. The set was mixed beautifully with the new punctuating the old and slotting in perfectly two newies came in the shape of the gospel-like Congregation and Walk which ended the first part of the set with power and guts.

This was the break and time for the band introductions, allowing every member to show off a bit Schiflett played Van Halen's Eruption before they ploughed into the snippet of I'm The One. Nate was next and he paid tribute to perhaps the UK's best bassist Chris Squire of the band Yes by bursting forth with Roundabout which led into a keyboard solo from Rami Jaffee and Pat blasting a bit of God Save The Queen, it was the slightly under rehearsed nature of these introductions that made them endearing rather than a chore, finally it was time for Hawkins' solo but he instead did a rendition of Cold Day In The Sun (one of the few songs Taylor Hawkins sings on) this was great and showed that Hawkins is not just a great drummer but a good singer too. So back to the start of our story and Grohl mentions the leg but forgoes the slideshow as we all knew what it was about but he promises something special and my god does he deliver. After an introduction his 'friends' came on stage, these friends as many of you may have seen on-line were Roger Taylor of Queen and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Jones stood behind the keyboard and Taylor behind the drums while Hawkins went to front of stage (as is only right). Then with a little tap of the hi-hat we were treated to Under Pressure with Grohl and Hawkins sharing lead vocals as a tribute to both the first band to headline Milton Keynes Bowl (Queen) and to the bands legendary frontman Freddie Mercury who would have been 69 on the day of this concert. We were witnessing something very special indeed, but as the cheer filled the arena we where quickly reminded that this was the Foo's night.

They once again blew away the competition by revving back off with All My Life and Time Like These which moved into These Days, the thrashy White LimoAlandria and Breakout. This was the rock section of the programme and myself and my hard rocking amigos banged our heads liberally during this section. We were reaching the 2 and a half hours mark but The Foos showed no sign of slowing down Outside moved into This Is A Call and then they played a fan request, luckily this was no obscure b-side the band let loose DOA a song that they haven't played since 2012, They played the song with some hesitation but managed to pull it off, as the light dimmed and we were left in darkness Grohl proclaimed that they don't do encores so they started their final three songs with For All The Cows then Aurora which gave Grohl another chance to play at rock God by playing a searing solo atop his throne that moved out onto the end of the ramp. As he ended his rock star moment the band played their last gasp with the excellent Best Of You (no My Hero which bemused myself and Ant) and it was as Best Of You finished we made our way through the surrounding forest and found ourselves where we came in so we strolled out of the arena and back to the car having seen some of the finest three hours of music I've witnessed. The band were all on fire and with such a wealth of songs there was never a dull moment, so the wait was worth it, £75 quid to see three hours of amazing music in a huge venue with quite a respectful crowd, yeah I'd say that was a win. All in all a fabulous night with good friends enjoying a band at the top of their game.


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