I considered putting this in the Bits and Pieces post, but really it deserves its own, so here we are. Earlier this year we tragically lost the drummer of the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins. To celebrate his life a huge concert was organised at Wembley (with a second in LA), with a line-up that had to be seen to be believed. Luckily, Heather and I got hold of the hottest ticket in town to see it.
There’s a sign something special is happening when before things have even started the audience is treated to a DJ set by none other than Mark Ronson, so it was with heightened anticipation that we awaited the first acts. We got an introduction followed by the first star of the evening, Mr Liam Gallagher, backed by the Foo Fighters, roaring into a couple of Oasis numbers, warming the still growing crowd up with a bit of a sing-a-long.
As he left it first became clear that there would be a bit of a break between acts, probably to help sort out who was going on and also one suspected to enable advertising in the live streams going out on various worldwide channels. Still, it wasn’t long before there was more entertainment. As this was a tribute to Taylor, we got a lot of the music he loved, including a little David Bowie double with Nile Rodgers, Chris Chaney, and Omar Hakim joined by Josh Homme for Let’s Dance, and by Gaz Coombes for Modern Love.
Taylor wasn’t just a member of the Foos, but also a music lover who would let his passion loose at any excuse. So it was his not entirely serious side band, Chevy Metal, took to the stage for an energetic set, including a surprisingly rock Kesha doing a passable version of Children of the Revolution. The theme continued as Taylor’s other band, The Coattail Riders, took the stage, complete with Justin Hawkins on vocals and Josh Freese on drums, in what was rapidly becoming a who’s who of the drumming world.
Things dropped a little with a slightly self-indulgent Wolfgang van Halen going overboard with the guitar despite Dave Grohl’s presence as they made there way through a couple of van Halen numbers (to be honest, it wasn’t the only time, as will be seen later, that things felt slightly too American for the audience. They quickly picked back up though as Dave’s daughter, Violet, came forward (with a bunch of superstar backing) to perform a haunting Jeff Buckley tribute at front of stage.
What we needed now though was something to raise the volume and beat, and Supergrass (perhaps a surprise inclusion among rock Gods, but reflective of Taylor’s eclectic tastes) certainly gave us that with a little three song set which bounced along from beginning to end.
That led into a real treat, Them Crooked Vultures appearing as a band together for the first time in over a decade, though actually the highlight of their three song set was QotSA‘s Long Slow Goodbye. Still, I was left with a silly grin on my face as I’d assumed I’d never get to see those guys together live.
And they kept coming. Next up saw The Pretenders, led by the tremendous Chrissie Hynde and aided by Dave Grohl. Whilst they rocked the next act was possibly much better suited to the following show in LA as not many within Wembley had heard of The James Gang, so weren’t too excited at their reformation to be honest (a good time to visit the toilets/bars).
Not to worry, because soon enough Violet Grohl was back with Mark Ronson to perform a roaring version of Valerie (a lot of setlists published after the show attributed that as an Amy Winehouse cover, maybe due to Ronson’s presence, but it is of course a The Zutons song). And then things got a bit more unbelievable.
A slightly insane combination of Brian Johnson, Lars Ulrich, and the Foo Fighters took the stage to perform a couple of AC/DC songs (aided by Justin Hawkins at one point) in the sort of supergroup combination one doesn’t even dream of because that could never happen, right? Yet there they were, and rocked.
With that all going on it’s just unfortunate that another American-centric act appeared. Rush have never had the influence in this country that the undoubtedly had in the US, so it wasn’t such a huge cheer that greeted Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson )most of Rush of course) to stage. Their brand of atmospheric lighting and rock didn’t really fit what had followed either. Still, we always knew there was more to come…
Heather and I had actually been having a discussion about biggest rock bands in the world (The Foos? AC/DC? Another?). That sort of went out the window as Wembley leapt to its feet as one as half of Queen walked onto stage. Brian May and Roger Taylor leading the foo Fighters (and Rufus Taylor) to a raucous reception. And doing Under Pressure & Somebody To Love just showing you need at least two singers (in Justin Hawkins & Sam Ryder) to get close to covering Freddie’s range. Brian May sitting on the stage doing a haunting version of Love Of My Life closed them out and in the resulting silence we waited the band who may be the second biggest in the world.
The Foo Fighters themselves, even without Taylor, didn’t disappoint as an ever rotating list of drummers helped them along. There was a moment where we wondered if it would happen, Dave poignantly breaking down for a moment while trying to sing opener Times Like These. He recovered though to fly through the hits. The legend in her own pre-teens of Nandi Bushell appeared to destroy the drums for Learn To Fly
Things did get interrupted slightly as of all people Paul McCartney made an appearance—which actually just killed momentum and was a bit out of keeping; he also got shown up by the power that is Chrissie Hynde on Oh Darling. The Foos were quickly back to close things however, with Taylor’s son Shane joining to hit the drums harder than anyone all night as they went through an emotional My Hero before Dave finished with a solo Everlong and the plethora of Rock Gods took a bow.
I’ve probably been to better concerts in terms of consistency but the highs here were pretty much the highest, and I’ve never spent so much time just looking around in amazement wondering if it’s all real. The only real downside was the stupid time it took to get from stadium to tube, resulting in a very long and circuitous journey home. I just look forward to the Violet Grohl, Nandi Bushell, Shane Hawkins supergroup we must demand.