Review: Foo Fighters @ Mt Smart Stadium, New Zealand on Saturday February 21st 

The last time Foo Fighters took to the stadium stage in Auckland, they induced a seismic like response from the crowd. Unfortunately the ground remained steady on this occasion. The very nature of stadium shows mean the band is always preaching to the choir, and this night was no different.

After gear was severely damaged in a truck accident following their Christchurch concert, a plane filled with brand new gear from LA ensured fans could get their fix of stadium rock. It appeared everything had arrived, with a large runway reaching out from the main stage to the middle of the stadium, promising some theatrics and up close appreciation.

Chicago hardcore quartet Rise Against were put in charge of rousing the early half-cup crowd. More than anything this was a real chance for them to win over a sizeable portion that had never seen them. Loud, aggressive, and armed with classic guitar moves, they set the scene for four hours of ‘prop your leg up on the foldback’ type rock.

The deep, unsurprising, and mutual love between the Foos and their fans was captured in the enormous screams and applause that greeted them – reciprocated by the band with an image of a silver fern projected on their stage background.

Proving that their latest album Sonic Highways fails to reach past safe mediocre rock, opener ‘Something From Nothing’, felt like a lacklustre start considering the setting. All the tracks from the new record didn’t really translate to this stage.  Grohl did his best to stir each side of the stadium as it quickly became clear that a lot of the focus was solely on him.

The next run of songs went some way to showing why these mainstream rock heroes belonged on a stage of this scale. Flanked by enormous side screens detailing all the action, a noticeable shift in the atmosphere took hold as they ripped through ‘The Pretender’, ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Breakout’, and ‘My Hero’.

As expected the banter between songs was strong, with the nicest guy in rock sharing his love for the nation and its people, along with his desire to play all night. “Tonight I wanna play songs from the first album, second album, third album, fourth album…I wanna play songs from the album we haven’t even fuckin’ written yet,” said Grohl.

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It wasn’t all about the frontman, each band member got their own introduction and chance to show off, although Grohl very much led the proceedings. Bassist Nate Mendel played ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ with drummer Taylor Hawkins joining in on the vocals. While it was a nice break in the proceedings and a chance to appreciate each member, it felt somewhat done before.

The extended jams also failed to ignite the masses. ‘Monkey Wrench’ was the greatest example of this, the usual eight bar break down lengthened to within an inch of everyone wishing it would end. Grohl’s soloing flourishes grew tired almost immediately; if we want to see him solo it’s certainly not on a guitar. The overblown cock-rock finishes also became quickly tiresome, screaming of a lack of creativity.

There was no formal intermission but the bandleader’s two song acoustic stint gave people the chance to recharge and grab another drink. There were heartfelt moments with the crowd, as they couldn’t help but singalong to ‘Wheels’.

Following Grohl’s slightly ‘up close and personal’ acoustic session, the rest of the band emerged from the middle of the runway for a few covers. As purely a vehicle to break up the show and add an extra spectacle, it all felt a bit forced.

While there’s a certain novelty watching these rock heroes playing out their own garage fantasies and covering heroes from AC/DC to David Bowie, at the end of the day people paid to see the Foo Fighters. If they wanted to see a covers band, the local RSL would have sufficed.

The finish was strong and as you would expect, with just about the whole stadium raising their hands in the air and singing along. There was a sense of this show being somewhat special but it felt too much like it was all what people knew would happen anyway.

If you’re a Foo Fighters fan, you got what you came for – a chance to sing along to the hits, further proof that Dave Grohl is a super nice guy who loves his fans, and an evening of loud stadium rock n roll.

There’s nothing like being caught up in the moment and singing along with thousands of others on that same trip, however it felt like should have been more surprises considering the setting. People have seen the Foo Fighters play a stadium for years, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit or stop for a while.

Set List:
Something From Nothing
The Pretender
Learn To Fly
Breakout
My Hero
Big Me
Congregation
Walk
[Band member introductions and solos]
Cold Day In The Sun
In The Clear
Arlandria
Monkey Wrench
Skin and Bones (solo acoustic)
Wheels (solo acoustic)

Secondary stage:
Times Like These
Detroit Rock City – Kiss (Cover)
Tom Sawyer – Rush (Cover)
Let There Be Rock – ACDC (Cover)
Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie (Cover)

Main stage finish:
All My Life
Outside
These Days
Generator
Best of You
Everlong

Foo Fighters Australian Tour Dates

Feb 24 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Feb 26 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Feb 28 – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Mar 2 – Derwent Entertainment Centre, Tasmania
Mar 4 – Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Mar 8 – nib Stadium, Perth
Tickets and info at www.frontiertouring.com