Live (March 28th, 2008)Rexall Place - Edmonton, Alberta
By Bobby Gorman
So far, 2008 has been a lackluster year for punk shows in Edmonton. It’s sad but true. There have been a few big named bands coming through town that had created quite a buzz, Serj Tankian would’ve been a good show most likely, but overall 2008 has been rather pathetic for punk tours thus far. It made it so that the Foo Fighters show was one of the most anticipated rock show of the year and the fact that Against Me! were opening heightened that anticipation.
First on the bill was Detroit’s HiFi Handgrenades, a band who recorded their debut at the Foo Fighters‘ studio and features ex-members of the The Suicide Machines. Unlike their former band, they left all their ska-punk inclinations behind and went for a straight forward pop-punk sound. They merged some old school pop-punk vibes like The Descendents with some newer Allister sounding songs with two separate vocalists which let them switch from smoother delivery to coarse vocal chords. It was on the faster songs like Facing The Firing Squad that stood out and would fit nicely in a Red Scare sampler disc and for an opening band that relatively no people knew they held themselves quite well. Unfortunately, the shotty lighting effects did damper their performance a bit as for 80 percent of the set giant spotlights shone from the back of the stage blinding anyone who attempted to look at the band playing.
Ten minutes later, the tiger from New Wave dropped from the ceiling to a wave of cheers and after another five minutes the Gainesville quartet walked onto the giant stage with silent determination. Having previously played for 600 people at the Dinwoodie Lounge the last time they were in Edmonton, I was unsure of what to expect from them in their new surroundings and whether or not they’d be able to pull it off. But they did. They really, really did.
Against Me! didn’t let the change of venue effect their performance but instead played to their fans in their neo-socialistic punk rock way. Full of confidence, the band played through song after song only stopping to talk once saying “We’re Against Me! from Gainesville and we’d like to thank the Foos for bringing us out on tour.”Most of their set consisted of New Wave cuts, particularly the opening half of their set which started off with Up The Cuts, New Wave, Thrash Unreal, and White People For Peace. They then dove into their history a bit with a great rendition of Pints of Guinness Make You Strong and From Her Lips To God’s Ear. They still scattered a few more New Wave selections like Stop, Americans Abroad and most surprisingly of all, Borne Of The FM Waves Of The Heart which came out surprisingly well considering Tegan Quinn wasn’t there. They ended their set with The Ocean and Don’t Lose Touch – something which Against Me! definitely didn’t do.
By the time The Foo Fighters were ready to hit the stage, Rexall Place had finally filled up and it’s a good thing too because everyone who was in attendance was treated to a classic rock and roll performance from Dave Grohl and his band. Right from the start, Grohl proved that he knows what it takes to be a front man as he personifies everything that Danko Jones so desperately tries to be without any effort of insincerity. He walked down the catwalk, throwing his long hair back and forth and devouring the cheers of the crowd. He was the idealistic rock and roll front man with massive solos (including a solo competition with Chris Shiflett during Stacked Actors) and pure intensity as he ran across the stage but was still able to create an intimate environment when he sincerity thanked the crowd and riled them up by promising the best Foo Fighters show ever.
And really, it was.
With a massive stage set-up, including four monitors that moved up and down the stage showing either the current performance or clips from various music videos, Grohl and company used the coliseum to their advantage during their two hour plus set which saw them hit nearly every one of their hits from their 13 year career including Let It Die, The Pretender, Learn To Fly, Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running), and This Is A Call. Halfway through their set, Grohl started to walk down the catwalk once again as another stage was lowered from the ceiling coming to rest at the end of the catwalk where Grohl enthusiastically announced “Hello front people! You used to be back people, but now you’re the front people!”
There they stripped down a handful of songs acoustically while still building them up as they not only had the regular band take the newly formed stage but also a violinist, a percussionist, pianist and a third guitarist. With eight people crammed onto the little stage, the band delivered the songs with intensity despite it’s semi-acoustic format. After a crowd filled interpretation of My Hero, Grohl introduced his band mates and let each have a little solo including the most impressive and only triangle solo I have ever seen. They finished the acoustic stage with Cold Day In The Sun, But Honestly and Everlong during which they headed back to the main stage to end the night with Monkey Wrench and All My Life. After several minutes of chanting “Foo! Foo!” the screens lit up with a picture of the night’s set list as they pulled back from the screen a smiling Grohl was seen egging on the crowd by lifting up fingers indicating the number of songs to be played in the encore. They ended up with three: Big Me, Long Dim Road and Best Of Me before exiting the stage for the final time of the night ending off one the strongest show of the year thus far.