Foo Fighters @ The Verizon Center

Friday night I did something that I almost never do; I skipped playing hockey in my Friday night adult league.  I generally hate skipping hockey on Fridays.  It is my outlet for the week.  I work two jobs all week, and Friday is my day to go out with the guys and play some hockey.  However, this past Friday I found a different outlet.  Way back in August I bought these tickets to see The Joy Formidable, Social Distortion, and Foo Fighters.  Having never seen the Foo Fighters live, I was really excited to check this out.

Even though the show didn’t start until 7, we headed downtown around 4 to check out some happy hours.  We really only had one destination in mind.  My wife can drink a bunch of the Strawberry Mojitos at Gordon Biersch, and they have some fairly descent happy hour food specials.  While there I consumed only the darkest beers on tap.  I knew I wouldn’t be buying anything at the show.  I go there for the Capitals games and the beers were even a dollar more for this show.  I consumed two of what they were calling their WinterBock and one of the Schwarzbier.  Now I have managed to have a few other Schwarzbiers, but it has definitely been a while.  This one had a little bit more of a clean and less heavy taste to it.  I didn’t mind it for the purpose of happy hour, but I was hoping for a little more richness.  I did notice that the flavors increased as the beer warmed up a little.  Their WinterBock is something I haven’t had before.  They bill it as having caramel and toffee with a hint of holiday spirit.  I did pick up the first two, but I would have enjoyed a little more description on the holiday spirit aspect.  Either way, it was a nice malty brew that was fairly easy for a happy hour.

We headed over to the show right around 7 and made our way up to our nosebleed seats.  Even though we didn’t arrive all that late, we basically completely missed The Joy Formidable.  I was a little disappointed in this, as I was more interested in seeing them than I was Social Distortion.  Social D came out and was their normal punk rock selves.  They seemed a little uncomfortable on stage and really didn’t command it very well.  They moved around very little and, for some reason, they didn’t benefit from the full scope of sound production like the Foo Fighters did later on.  Really the only time the crowd paid attention was when they played their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to end their set.

Now this was my first concert in the Verizon Center, but I was really worried about the sound I had already experienced, and I had a fear that I would see almost nothing from nosebleed seats.  Thankfully, my fears were erased when Foo Fighters took the stage.  Foo Fighter’s came out to “Burning Bridges”; the opener off their new album.  I knew immediately that this was going to be a good show.  The sound was a lot better than any of the previous bands, and they had video screens that were giving us quick close-ups of all 5 members of the band.  This was extremely helpful for those of us who, despite buying during the pre-sale, still ended up miles away from the stage.

View from my seat

Dave Grohl continuously referenced the fact that he had come home to play.  He told us how he wrote songs in the garage of his house in Virginia.  He asked us what had happened to the mall he frequented growing up in the area, and he continuously talked about how many things had changed in this area.  Through it all, he came across as someone who had worked hard to make it, and was extremely proud that he had returned to play one of the biggest venues in the entire area.  It was really interesting to see how he both embodied the rock star personality and the hometown boy.  They definitely were ready to play their heart out for the hometown crowd.

Playing a massive 23 song set is already going to guarantee a rather long show; however, the fact that very few of those songs were played to album specifics helped to not only add length, but add even more depth and substance to the performance as well. They actually played very few of the songs exactly as they are played on the album.  “Learn to Fly” featured a substantial jam session in the middle of it.  “Stacked Actors” allowed the rest of the members to go back stage and take a break while guitarist Chris Shiflett and Grohl had a little guitar battle in the middle of the set.  Right before Grohl’s screaming part of “Monkey Wrench”, Grohl stopped the song and exclaimed, “This is where you want me to scream my balls off.  Well I’m not going to scream my balls off”.  There was then a long period where they turned down the lights and allowed the lighters and cellphones to take over.  After the dramatic pause, Grohl came back to scream his balls off a cappella.

They managed to get through 18 songs before leaving the stage for the expected screaming for an encore.  They, however, handled it in a fun way.  Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins showed up on the screen.  They were being filmed back stage using a night vision camera.  They hammed it up trying to get the crowd to scream louder.  Eventually they had a mime battle over how many songs they should come back and play.  Taylor kept upping the song total, while Dave made it appear as if he was totally against coming back and was struggling from a sore throat.  Eventually Dave came back for two acoustic songs before returning to the complete band for the encore.  The encore also included bringing Bob Mould (Husker Du) on stage to play and sing backup on “Dear Rosemary” and a Tom Petty cover.  They ended the show with an epic version of “Everlong”.

Overall the Foo Fighter’s section of the show was amazing.  As I said when I reviewed their latest album, I have loved the Foo Fighters since their inception 16 years ago.  They managed to keep their set both interesting and exciting over the course of three hours.  There is nothing more annoying than going to a show to see a big name artist and feeling like you could have just sat at home and listened to the CD.  In the end, the Foo Fighters promised to play the 9:30 club the next time they came to town.  Now it just my hope that I can get some of those tickets so I can see them in a more intimate venue.

A better picture taken from dcist.com

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