To a generation of disaffected adolescents, Nirvana’s 1991 release of “Nevermind” served as an irascible rallying cry aimed at cleansing popular culture of Reagan-era excess. It ushered in a new breed of musical expression that resonated with a demographic driven to apathy by the vacuity that ended up swallowing the Sunset Strip.
For a later generation, Foo Fighters’ 1997 powerhouse, “The Colour and the Shape,” was greeted with similar adoration, despite arriving at a time when the opportunity for Cultural Revolution had come and gone. The album that gave us “Everlong,” “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench,” and “February Stars” allowed Dave Grohl to put Nirvana behind him, and solidify himself as a bona fide rock star capable of propelling his own brand to prominence.
We knew what he could do behind the kit, but to watch him take the reins and display an almost innate knack for churning out transcendent lyrics wrapped around meaty, arena-ready guitar hooks was impressive, even if the press still plagued him with questions regarding subliminal references to his former band.
It was fitting, then, that on the weekend in which fans celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the album that changed the world, the Foo Fighters stormed Buffalo’s First Niagara Center with the public speculating as to what type of homage, if any, might be in store.
With a blistering new record of their own to promote, would Grohl and Co. acknowledge the past and give Buffalo an evening they’d never forget?
Well, I’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s discuss the new material first.
Opening with “Bridge Burning,” “Rope,” and “The Pretender” right out of the gate, the band indicated that this was going to be a loud, bombastic affair. If you left your seat, there was a chance you may have missed a seismic rock ‘n’ roll moment that you’d be kicking yourself over later.
Sure, you had the usual suspects of “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench,” and “This is a Call” in the set, but you also had a stunning “Arlandria” and a volatile rendition of “Stacked Actors” that appeared to get meaner with each strum of the guitar.
Because the band is now boasting the triangular six-string attack of Grohl, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear, the music has been catapulted to another level and the live sound balances this in perfect fashion. Hearing the crunch on “White Limo” and “All My Life” convinced me of that.
Toss in covers of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” and “Breakdown” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and one could’ve left the arena feeling more than satisfied.
What set this show apart from the rest and sent a chill down my spine in the process was the appearance of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, who joined the band for “Skin and Bones” with accordion in tow. Seeing Grohl and Novoselic share a moment on stage together was endearing, so, when Grohl uttered the words “Happy Anniversary, Krist” for all to hear, the audience knew they were witnessing something special.
For the encore, Grohl went solo for beautifully stripped-down versions of “Long Road to Ruin,” “Best of You,” and “Times Like These,” but rejoined the band for “Dear Rosemary” and “Everlong,” which easily ranks as one of the finest rock songs of the last 20 years in its own right.
In the end, Foo Fighters spent their first-ever show in Buffalo trying to convince fans that rock music is indeed alive and well in 2011 and, after a nearly three-hour statement, it would be hard to argue against them.