When it was originally announced all those months ago that Foo Fighters would be headlining the Carling Weekend in Reading and Leeds, it was somewhat inevitable that a ‘club’ show in London would precede these appearances. Small, intimate gigs have been common around the time of big festival slots in the past, and to date they had only played two shows in the UK to showcase material from their recent double and supposedly best (If Mr Grohl is to be believed) album In Your Honor.
Tickets for tonight’s show sold out in 15 minutes on the morning they went on sale, and touts were out in full force outside the venue on a wet and rather miserable Charing Cross Road, offloading tickets for up to five times their face value. For the lucky 2000 or so that managed to gain entrance to the humid and rather dingy sweatbox that is the Astoria, however, a night of ear piercing rock awaited.
After an entertaining and boisterous support slot from Canadian duo Death From Above 1979, which warmed the audience up nicely, Grohl and co. appeared on stage to an uncomfortably packed crowd at quarter past nine. The cheers were deafening; their hero was standing with a grin on his face closer than they’ll probably see him for a good while.
What followed was a 90-minute greatest hits showcase – this was not a night for experimentation or acoustics, as Grohl, in typically jovial fashion, had teased us at the beginning (“We’re going to play some of the songs you don’t normally hear”), this was an ideal opportunity to please the devotees and assure them that Foo Fighters still meant business.
After all, with In Your Honor’s lukewarm reception in the press, they needed to pull something out of the bag in order to maintain the relevance and credibility that they’ve always had in spades. And indeed, what we got was a set packed with sing along hits spanning from their 1995 debut album to their forthcoming single, DOA.
Times Like These and Best Of You got the crowd participating early on, before Grohl went solo mid set with a couple of acoustically performed numbers. The latter of these, Everlong, arguably their best song in a long career of good songs, was certainly a highlight. Here Grohl displayed that he’s more than a one trick pony – yes, he can certainly make some noise through those strained vocal chords, but he’s also a gifted singer with a surprisingly affecting voice.
Things picked up again with an elongated rendition of Monkey Wrench, which saw Grohl, and the crowd, give it all on the song’s frantic conclusion, but perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening came in the encore, when Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins exchanged places for Cold Day In The Sun, a breezy, country tinged ballad written and sung by Hawkins. A highlight of In Your Honour, it sounded fantastic live and slotted in perfectly with their more popular material.
It’s adventure such as this that you would expect from a band 10 years into their career, and was proof positive that they’re still bustling with ideas and invention. All in all this was a solid, assured and quite often exhilarating performance – as 2000 sweat drenched fans departed the building, this amiable quartet move on to Reading and Leeds as potent as they’ve ever been, and with their reputation as one of rock’s heavyweights still very much intact.