Words by Natalie Blacklock
It is often said that moments of pain can sometimes lead to the biggest triumphs. Following the unfathomable loss of beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins last year, just having the Foo Fighters back on stage and back in Australia is definitely a victory in itself. Approaching three decades as one of the world’s most celebrated bands, Foo Fighters could undoubtedly patent the formula for a stadium rock show and that they did – on the final night of their Australian tour at Brisbane’s iconic home of Rugby League, Suncorp Stadium.
All roads led to ‘The Cauldron’ as the heaving crowd steadily streamed in for an early kick-off, starting with Hot Milk. Rising out of Manchester’s world-renowned grassroots music scene, Hot Milk are fast becoming one of the UK’s most exciting guitar-based exports. Formed in 2018, the band is dual-fronted by guitarists/vocalists Jim Shaw and Han Mee. Commanding the audience early, Hot Milk exude confidence as they bound around the stage, warming the crowd up the best way they know how. Their set hit the right notes with tracks including 2022’s Teenage Runaways, as well as more recent tracks, Over Your Dead Body and Party On My Deathbed which features a skilful rap breakdown from Shaw. The band delivered a short and sharp set that balanced punk, pop, emo-pop, and alternative rock, seamlessly blended into a belter of a set, that definitely sent a few tongues wagging.
Following up were ‘local’ lads The Chats. Formed in 2016 on the Sunshine Coast, the band describe their sound as “shed rock”. Starting early with the ‘hometown’ pride, frontman Eamon Sandwith proclaims their first track “about a town about 103km from here called Nambour” before launching into a hooky rendition of Nambored. Usually, all business and hardly any banter, frontman Eamon Sandwith gives plenty of quirky introductions into many of the tracks, complete with some uniquely Queensland / Australian insights, including Ross River (referring to the mosquito transmitted Ross River virus), Paid Late which Sandwith explains was about a broken ATM in Southport, Ticket Inspector which he dedicated to Translink and The Price of Smokes, which provides a commentary on the “rampant and exorbitant tobacco prices in this country”. Sandwith took a moment to thank his Dad for bringing him to “see the Fooies in 2011”, before the band ripped into a closing 1-2 punch of their most popular tracks, Smoko and Pub Feed rounding out their short and sharp 19-track set.
Kicking off their first foray on Australian shores since 2018, the now seemingly packed-out Suncorp Stadium are ready for Foo! The stage is plunged into darkness, the tension like a thick overhanging cloud in the air as the anticipation builds and builds. Suddenly, stage lights ignite, guitars riff and drums smash and the man of the hour (or three if you don’t mind) Dave Grohl emerges to proclaim, “It’s the final night of the Australian Tour motherfuckers. Are you ready?” Without hesitation, All My Life sets the scene, sending the crowd into energy overload from the outset, led by the goofy grin of Guitarist, Pat Smear. The band plunges into No Son Of Mine from 2021’s ‘Medicine At Midnight’, teasing riffs of Paranoid by Black Sabbath and AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Rescued, the first single released after the passing of Taylor Hawkins was chilling yet triumphant all at once with stunning backing vocals from Chris Shiflett and Nate Mendel while an extended version of The Pretender, brought the crowd back to the rock show as Grohl bounded back and forth across the stage revving up the crowd. Exclaiming that “we didn’t come here to fuck around”, Grohl confidently tells the audience that they’re going to play as many songs as they can before they collapse and with 28 years’ worth of music there’s a lot to choose from! With the Suncorp Stadium horde hanging on every word, the band bring old and new fans together on 2011’s Walk, Times Like These, from 2002’s ‘One By One’ before launching into the iconic Generator – a track that was only released as a single in Australia. ‘Concrete and Gold’ deep cut La Dee Da sits well in the set, quickly followed by “one of the old school” in Breakout, which provided a hilarious and powerful Guitar v Drum battle between Grohl and Josh Freese, as the Stadium lit up with ‘mobile stars’, proclaimed as “the best Christmas tree I’ve seen in my life” by Dave himself. The band is introduced through a quick-fire medley of covers including The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, Nine Inch Nails’ March of The Pigs, and Sabotage by Beastie Boys, allowing each of them to flex their genuine instrumental talent. The newest addition to the band, drummer Josh Freese, receives his very own chant (FREESEEE! FREESEEE! FREESEEE!) following his little ditty of Devo’s Whip It – a band which he has been a member since 1996 – for allowing the Foos to continue to be able to tour their tunes live. The next number was a stripped back and heartfelt rendition of My Hero, which saw Rami Jaffee steal the spotlight on the Keys. The Sky Is A Neighborhood is picture perfect – with the stage backdrop unveiling a Fooies UFO, keeping on theme with the track’s film clip, which was directed by Grohl, and feature his daughters Violet and Harper.
Learn To Fly ignited another crowd singalong and Arlandria brought out the laughs as Dave exclaims that he forgot some of the words in the bridge. Newer cut Under You was paired beautifully with a colourful and mesmerising background of old Fooies tour posters from around the world – the more you looked, the more details jumped out. These Days from 2011’s ‘Wasting Light’ contrasted nicely with an acoustic and stripped back version of 2007’s Statues – which was played on this tour for the first time live. Featuring Grohl and Chris Shiflett on the catwalk, Rami Jaffee stayed on the main stage, keeping pace on the Keys. The country-tinged Ballad of The Beaconsfield Miners, which Dave wrote for two miners involved in the Beaconsfield goldmine collapse in Tasmania, in 2006, sees a Grohl guitar solo rise and rise punctuated as the full band reconvenes for one hell of an ending – as Jaffee pulled out an Accordion. Nothing At All from latest record, ‘But Here We Are’, is a more poppy, punky approach to the usual Foos rock but still holds its own in the set, incorporating the iconic strains of The Beatles’ Blackbird. Grohl paused the music briefly, taking the audience’s focus for another storytime, as an audience member in potential strife was attended to (luckily, they were okay). In introducing their ‘lovesong’, Big Me, from 1995’s self-titled record, he regaled the track’s film clip, which parodies a Mentos commercial (cc: Footos) and detailed how crowds used to throw Mentos at them on stage following its release.
Monkey Wrench explodes at full force with enough swing and aggression to blow the roof off, with Josh Freese relentless on the drums. Dave challenged the crowd to scream – and scream they did – impressing the seasoned stage veteran who gave as good as he got in response. After a few huge moments, subdued, tender moments were still to be had, as Grohl introduced Aurora. “We like to play this song every night because it was Taylor Hawkins’ favourite Foo Fighters song. It was really the first song that me (Dave) and Nate (Mendel) and Taylor wrote together… it’s such a magical feeling so we play it every night for him.” Dave continued, “He (Taylor) was with me that night I got thrown in jail on the Gold Coast but he was so handsome and charming they let his ass go”. Dialling right back to the rock, we visit 1995 with the band’s first ever single, This Is A Call, which offers an upbeat and energetic boost. The band’s long-time drum tech, Adelaide gal Fiona Jeans, didn’t miss a beat as she joined the fellas on vocals for a cover of AC/DC’s Big Balls. Closing out the main part of the set, Dave thanked the crowd for “coming out to the rock show”, as the familiar strains of Best Of You ring out; rising into a crescendo of clattering metal and storming sounds, punctuated by the dedicated crowd still bopping along almost 2 hours later.
A brief intermission then sees the band return with an epic 10-minute version of The Teacher from this year’s album ‘But Here We Are’, for which Dave strapped on a custom 12-string double neck Cherry Red Gibson. Grohl thanked the crowd, but fell short of saying goodbye stating that he hopes we’ll come back next time, before sending off the adoring crowd with fan-favourite and fitting final song Everlong from 1997 record ‘The Colour and The Shape’. The crowd goes wild, phones are up, people are screaming and dancing – excited, elated, just plain happy.
As the punters snaked their way out of the stadium, and onward into the Brisbane night, it’s safe to say that a Foo Fighters live show is an epic spectacle and a feast for the senses. Bolstered by the enigmatic charisma and musical talent of the band who have been through so much together, paired with the ever-exciting and at times curiously life-like visuals, each song stands larger than life, making the Fooies a band you definitely need to check off your bucket list.
With thanks to Frontier Touring