The pit at the Austin360 Amphitheater had no chairs for Wednesday’s season-opening concert by the Foo Fighters, and for all practical purposes on this night, you could have ripped out the reserved seats in the next tier as well. From the front all the way to the back at this sold-out show, everyone was standing for the band’s entire performance.
That’s a significant indication of both their fans’ enchanted enthusiasm and the Foo Fighters’ boundless energy. And this wasn’t some rapid-fire quick-hit performance. Dave Grohl and his bandmates held court for almost three hours without a break, not even stopping for an encore pause at the end. “Let’s just play through,” Grohl said near the end, to rousing approval from the audience.
The band had hinted at the marathon beforehand, sending out an email to ticketholders on Tuesday informing them that opening band the Struts would go on at 7 p.m. rather than the originally scheduled 7:30 “to give you more of a show.” This was no surprise, really, as the Foo Fighters went nearly three hours even when they taped “Austin City Limits” in 2014, on a show that gets edited to an hour for TV.
The last time they were in town, headlining the 2015 Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park, Grohl had limitations, confined to a throne at center stage after he’d broken his leg on tour but opted not to cancel shows. On Wednesday, the first stop of a North American jaunt after a five-week hiatus, he was back to vintage Grohl, sprinting and stalking the lip of the stage as he wailed away on guitar.
Last year’s “Concrete and Gold,” the group’s ninth album, was the motivation for this tour, and they hit two new-album highlights early: the show-opening “Run,” which earned them a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and the soaring “The Sky Is a Neighborhood.” Mostly, though, this was a career-retrospective kind of night, with Grohl promising early on that they’d play something from every single Foo Fighters album.
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Ever the consummate rock bandleader, Grohl gave each of his five bandmates a moment in the spotlight. Guitarist Chris Shiflett took the helm for a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels.” The band vamped to bassist Nate Mandel’s bass-solo thumping of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Co-founding guitarist Pat Smear careened into a crunching cover of the Ramones’ “Bliztkreig Bop.” Keyboardist Rami Jaffee set up an uproarious punchline, playing the piano chords to John Lennon’s “Imagine” before Grohl joined in by adapting the lyrics of Van Halen’s “Jump” to the melody.
Wide-smiling drummer Taylor Hawkins got a double-shot of featured time, first with a drum solo that bridged “Rope” to “Sunday Rain” in which his riser was levitated about 30 feet above the band by an adjustable platform. Later, he stepped out front — allowing Grohl to return to the drum seat where he first gained renown with Nirvana — for a duet with the Struts’ Luke Spiller on the classic David Bowie/Queen collaboration “Under Pressure.” (It was a fitting choice given that Spiller showed a bit of Freddie Mercury dramatics in his own band’s well-received opening set.)
One might have expected more than two dozen Foo Fighters songs to be played in a show that ran two hours and 45 minutes, but a handful of largely superfluous extended jams ate into the clock a bit. More welcome were the effortlessly personal Grohl’s occasional digressions, including one about a 1990s cross-country road trip that involved a stop in Dallas to visit ill-fated metal band Pantera and a lost wallet that got returned many years later.
Was it a true story? It was entertaining enough that it didn’t really matter, much as it ultimately made no difference whether the guy in the crowd wearing Kiss makeup who they brought onstage for a guest-guitar cameo during “Monkey Wrench” was a plant in the audience or a legit surprise. “Kiss Guy,” as Grohl dubbed him, was so on-point and in sync with the band that it stretched belief, but Grohl swore it was for real: “We’ve never done the setup,” he said, “and Kiss Guy is the best one we’ve ever had.”
Beyond the showmanship, the Foo Fighters first and foremost still deliver the songs. The crowd sang, danced and thrashed along all night to favorites such as “My Hero,” “Learn to Fly,” “These Days,” “Best of You” and the show-closing “Everlong.” Grohl gave sincere props for all that energy from the crowd, telling them, “Thank you very much for making us feel like a real band.” And he promised they’d be back, “so I don’t have to say goodbye.”