Foo Fighters w/ Rise Agaist & Mariachi El Bronx 09/17/11
Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO
Words by Jenkins/Videos by Beeznutz
“You know, I used to get fucking nervous doing this shit. It used to freak me out that I had to stand in front of all of these people and play guitar, but I don’t get nervous any more at all – AT ALL … And, the way I look at it, when I come out and do a show like this, I look out at all you people and I just feel like, well, you’re Foo Fighters people, you’re the same as I am.”
Sure enough, 12,000 Foo Fighters people gathered at the Scottrade Center on Saturday night for an evening with the Foo Fighters – an evening most of us had been waiting for since May when the tickets went on sale. Supporting the Foo Fighters on this leg of the tour were rockers Rise Against and the practically uncategorizable Mariachi El Bronx.
The show was scheduled to start at 7:00PM, and we were heading in from the parking garage with about ten minutes to spare. As we submitted to the security pat down at the entrance, I noticed a list of things that were forbidden in the arena. Included on this list (along with the usual items like food, recording devices, weapons, and cameras with detachable lenses) was garden gnomes. How is this relevant to this concert experience, you ask? Well, to be honest, I have no idea – but if they felt that garden gnomes are important enough to point out, then so do I.
Mariachi El Bronx took the stage promptly at 7:00 – at 7:01 we were fumbling to our seats in the dark and they were already mid-song. Prior to this concert, I knew pretty close to nothing about Mariachi El Bronx. I knew they were a band, and I knew they had a relatively new album out, but that’s about it. Truth be told, I didn’t even know they were opening this show until mid-afternoon the day of the show. Needless to say, I didn’t really know what I was expecting from them, but what I can tell you for certain is that I was absolutely not expecting an actual mariachi band.
Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, the El Bronx set was short but jam packed with energy and a hell of a lot of fun. In some ways, they almost reminded me of the off-the-wall performances of Gogol Bordello. A highlight of the set for me – and this may be a bizarre thing to pick out as a highlight – was the song/jamming they played while introducing all of the band members. They could have jammed that out for the whole 25 minutes and I would have been content. Sadly, having gone in blind I don’t know the setlist and can’t go into any real detail in terms of what was played, but they sounded good, they put on a terrific show, and the crowd (at least, the crowd that actually bothered to check out the opener versus hanging out by the beer vendors) really seemed to enjoy the set. After 25 minutes of mariachi-rock insanity, Mariachi El Bronx ended their set and left the stage for Rise Against.
Thanks to youtube and the various reviews on Concert Confessions, I had a better idea of what to expect from Rise Against, but I still didn’t know much of their stuff beyond the most commercially viable/radio friendly stuff. Everyone who was hanging out with the beer vendors came in and took their seats for Rise Against – I was really surprised to see how full the arena was this early in the night (and I was equally surprised to see how many people were heading to their cars after the Rise Against set). The crowd really seemed to be into their set, with whole sections of the 12,000 person arena singing and screaming and bouncing along, complete with head banging and devil horns all around (including the 12 year old in front of me there with his dad). The audience was really responding to Rise Against like they were the headlining act and in general seemed to eat up every minute of their set.
There is no denying that Rise Against played their asses off during their set, and the two songs I knew – Help Is On The Way and Prayer for the Refugee – sounded good enough, but from where we were sitting the overall mix sounded way off and as a result I had a hard time enjoying their set. The mix was just too loud for the indoor venue they were in, and it was hard-to-impossible to understand any lyrics or hear any details in the music. It’s one thing to be loud and distorted, but the levels were so high that everything just sounded muddy. That being said, I realize that sometimes opening acts aren’t mixed as well as headliners since they don’t really get to soundcheck and the sound in the venue isn’t necessarily engineered with the opening act in mind. These guys are probably much more enjoyable as a headliner (and maybe when they are playing at an outdoor venue), but overall this just didn’t work for me. There were 11,997 other people there that night who may disagree, but the three of us in my group all agreed that this particular performance was just too loud to be enjoyable.
The Foo Fighters took the stage shortly before nine and played a solid set that clocked in at just shy of three hours. The audio mix was perfect, with the band being damn loud without clipping or sounding muddy at all. Various moving lights and displays were hanging over the stage, and above the stage on the left and right sides were two high definition jumbo view screens that were beautiful and crystal clear (these screens can be seen well in one of the videos below). The view of the screens would have been perfect from any seat in the house, including the last row of the nose bleed section. This is maybe the best lineup the Foo Fighters have had since the inception of the band, with the awesome Pat Smear returning to the band on rhythm guitar and providing an extra layer of sound (often freeing frontman Dave Grohl up for various other fist pumping, head banging, and bouncing around the stage duties).
Interspersed throughout the night was plenty of banter from Dave. He was especially chatty with the crowd, often stopping between songs to tell stories, harass the crowd, or express what felt like an incredible amount of gratitude. Dave leaves you believing that not only does he have the greatest job in the world, but he really feels like he’s stumbled into it totally by accident – he said more than once that “this band was never supposed to exist”. In the acoustic section of the encore, Dave identified a boy in the audience (Dave guessed he was ten years old), and waxed philosophic to him for several minutes about music, rock bands, guitars, and finally ended his speech to the kid with “We’re going to come back here in a couple of years, and when we do, you better have started a fucking band”.
Somewhere between a fourth and a third of the set was made up of songs from the new album Wasting Light, which (thankfully) is excellent. The rest of the set was rounded out with a huge list of radio hits, crowd favorites, and Foo Fighters classics.
(Incidentally, all credit for these videos goes to fellow concert confessor BeeZnutZ, who somehow manages to make great recordings even in lousy poorly lit environments like the Scottrade center.)
There were four songs I really wanted to hear from Wasting Light, and the Foo Fighters opened their set with two of them back to back – Bridge Burning and Rope. Bridge Burning is the standard opener for this tour, and it works well in that slot – a big distorted buildup at the beginning followed by 4 minutes of guitar heavy rock and the occasional Dave Grohl piercing scream. Rope, the first single from the album, already elicits a “fan-favorite” reaction from the crowd and sounds great live considering it’s one of the new songs.
Rope led right into one of my favorite Foo Fighters songs: The Pretender. Ten thousand plus people singing and screaming along to the chorus of this song during a seizure inducing light show was definitely a high point of the night for me, complete with the typical “arena-rock” antics of quieting the music down during the bridge and then blowing it up and rattling the windows.
After standards My Hero and Learning to Fly, the band played White Limo. While this song has what I think is the greatest music video in the world (watch it here), I am hit or miss on the song itself, so I wasn’t really looking forward to hearing it live. Dave’s searing screaming vocals translated much better to the live setting, and this was actually pretty enjoyable.
White Limo segued into another Wasting Light tune: Arlandria. This is hands down my favorite song off of the new album, so I was really glad to see that it’s in rotation, and much like the other new songs, it sounds like they’ve been playing it for years rather than months.
Up next was a run of Foo Fighters oldies Breakout, Cold Day in the Sun, Long Road to Ruin, and Stacked Actors. Long Road to Ruin is great, but the others aren’t especially favorites of mine so I had a little bit of down time here. I was surprised to find myself getting into a great version of Stacked Actors, as I’ve never really cared for this song at all prior to this show. At one point during the song Dave and Chris played some dueling guitar solos, with each of them often lifting riffs from guitar classics like Jimmy Page’s Heartbreaker solo.
The band squeezed in a standard-but-solid performance of Walk before playing one last round of crowd favorites with Generator and Monkey Wrench. Walk was the last song on my checklist of Wasting Light songs I wanted to hear and much like the others already sounds like an “old” Foo Fighters song. I could have personally done without hearing Generator – it was good enough performance wise, but the song itself is just not for me. Monkey Wrench ended with Dave having the lights in the venue turned off and bringing the volume of the music way down before screaming his way through the entire last verse. I can’t help but wonder how this guy has managed to keep his voice at all – if I screamed the way that he’s been screaming for the last 15 years, I wouldn’t even be able to whisper, much less sing, howl, and shout.
Another new song, These Days, led up to what was absolutely the surprise of the night for me: I Should Have Known. For me, this ranks somewhere in the middle compared to the other songs on Wasting Light, but their live performance of it was truly exceptional. Passionate, intense, fiery, and LOUD, this was the best song of the night – a perfect blend of heavy rock jamming and emotionally touching songwriting and delivery. After this, the band wrapped up the main set with Skin and Bones, This Is A Call, and All My Life. A primarily acoustic number, Skin and Bones was a short quiet change of pace from the rest of the setlist, as well as perhaps the only song anywhere in the Foo Fighters catalogue requiring an accordion. I burned myself out on This Is A Call after listening to it hundreds of times as a teenager, because I just don’t care for it now – I missed most of the song as this was perfect timing for a restroom break for me.
There was no better way to end this set than with All My Life, which was 7 or so minutes of guitar-pounding-light-flashing-kick-ass-rock-and-roll. The red stage lighting at the end of this song was especially awesome. Incidentally, at this point I was starting to come to the realization that my hearing would likely not function correctly for days following the end of the show.
All My Life:
The band took a nice long encore break to recoup, and the large video screens displayed a feed from a night vision camera that several band members were using backstage to egg on the audience and tease the number of encore songs. The screens also served as a distraction to keep people from noticing Dave walking to the front of the extended stage to begin the encore set with a solo acoustic performance of Wheels. This was one of many points in the night where the crowd participation was remarkable – at points during this song (especially the return on the chorus), the crowd sang word for word with Dave, often overpowering his vocals. Dave continued his acoustic set with solo renditions of Best of You and Times Like These. Best of You was the only point in the night where it sounded like Dave’s voice might have been ready to give out – but it’s hard to blame him after performing for almost three hours straight.
Encore Break > Wheels:
Best Of You:
The band returned to the stage for a cover of Young Man Blues by Mose Allison – or perhaps more appropriately, a cover of The Who’s cover of Young Man Blues by Mose Allison. While this was fantastic, I had the feeling that it was sadly lost on most of the crowd. This jam led straight into Dear Rosemary, which then segued into a cover of Tom Petty’s Breakdown. Musically, everything was note-for-note perfect on Breakdown (especially the keyboards), which was perhaps the most mellow song of the night. Even though they were little out of their comfort zone in this genre, the guys were all smiles for this performance.
Dear Rosemary > Breakdown:
Finally, Foo Fighters closed out the night with Everlong. Quite simply, Everlong was perhaps the most epic-mega-rock-and-roll moment of my concert-going life.
I’ve said before that if I could do it all over and be whatever I want when I grow up, I’d probably be in a band, on a stage, and nights like this remind me why. These guys have the greatest job in the world. I honestly can’t tell you the last time I have been to a concert where the band members had as much fun as Foo Fighters. Sure, on the surface these 5 guys walked on stage and played a predetermined setlist full of songs that they’ve rehearsed and played dozens (or hundreds) of times before, but it was more than that, too. They interacted with each other. They interacted with the crowd. They drank beer and goofed off and laughed. They had fun. They love what they do. They aren’t just Foo Fighters band members, they’re Foo Fighters fans – and right now is a great time to be a Foo Fighters fan.
Learn to Fly
White Limo >
Cold Day in the Sun
Long Road to Ruin
I Should Have Known
Skin and Bones
This Is a Call
All My Life
Best of You
Times Like These
Young Man Blues (cover of The Who’s Mose Allison cover)
Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)