“I wish you were here. It’s not the same. Because usually I sing this one along with you.”
As Dave Grohl launched into Foo Fighters’ 2007 hit “The Pretender,” it was clear how much the band was missing its fans. Saturday night’s livestream from Sunset Strip haunt the Roxy was meant to shake out those cobwebs, following a stellar turn on “Saturday Night Live” on Nov. 7, and did they ever. Grohl along with bandmates Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee — Grohl’s 14-year-old daughter, Violet, was one of the backup singers — delivered with an intense energy, ripping through some of the Foos’ biggest hits, including “All My Life,” “Times Like These,” “Best of You,” “This Is a Call” and their latest single, “Shame Shame.”
“I have to be honest, the last eight months we haven’t done much,” said Grohl, who typically will spend that much time on the road in an album cycle year — and playing arenas not tiny clubs. “And six months went by where we didn’t even see each other. And that’s some fucked up shit, because we’re usually all together — it’s like the Partridge Family.” He cycled through some lamentations: “It’s our 25th anniversary this year. 2020 was gonna be the best year ever. We had plans, man. We were gonna hit the road. Do some shows. Killer T-shirt designs. New record. And… here we are.”
But this “here” turned out to not be such a bad way station for a night, as the Foo Fighters’ frontman was his usual, charming self, chewing gum and sipping whiskey while bantering between songs amid the awkwardness of an absent audience. Grohl refused to let show participation slide. “If you hate your fucking neighbors, and you hate your fucking roommates, I want everybody to sing ‘My Hero’ by yourself in front of your fucking iPad,” Grohl declared. “I know it seems embarrassing, but you can imagine what it’s like being on this stage pretending there’s people here. Let’s share a little bit of this awkward energy together,” said Grohl, just as the Foos’ crew onsite began belting the lyric, “There goes my hero” — much to the band’s surprise. This prompted Grohl to barrel through another round.
Grohl admittedly has not been a fan of the substitutions for normal shows during the pandemic — like this one. As he explained from the stage: “I remember when everything shut down and people started doing livestream and drive-through things. I was like, ‘Fuck that shit. Uh-uh. We’ve been on the road for 25 years and that’s the best part of what we do… be face-to-face with you guys. I was like, ‘Nah, man, ain’t doing it till we can go out (with full audiences). Then, you know what? …Everybody needs a little moment every day. You’re like, ‘Anxiety, fuck that shit. We need joy. We need a little happiness. So if we can’t be in each other’s face right now, I realize that this is what we need to do to bring the joy and happiness.”
And if a livestream chock full of hits is the Foos’ raison d’être right now, then so be it. A bonus: besides serving as a much-needed escape for fans, a portion of the proceeds from the stream will go to Sweet Relief, which provides financial assistance to music industry workers struggling financially while facing illness, disability or age-related issues, as well as industry professionals financially impacted by COVID-19.
Before Foo Fighters closed out their 12-song set with “Everlong,” Grohl left his virtual audience with this: “We miss you all very much. We hope that we can see you again soon. I Know we will. And fuck, dude, when we do this again with everybody, that shit’s gonna be good.”