By John Curley
It was a very pleasant night with a nice breeze on Thursday, July 16th at Citi Field in Queens, NY. The ballpark, home to baseball’s New York Mets, was hosting the second of two concerts headlined by the Foo Fighters with opening act Royal Blood. The concert began at 7 p.m. sharp when the sun was still shining. The crowd was still filing in as Royal Blood took the stage. A Brighton, England-based duo, Royal Blood are comprised of Mike Kerr on bass and vocals and Ben Thatcher on drums. They are touring in support of their self-titled debut album and performed in front of an image of their album cover on the large video screen at the back of the stage. While the stands were filling up throughout Royal Blood’s set, the area on the field in front of the stage was already quite full when they hit the stage, and those fans were wildly enthusiastic throughout their set.
Royal Blood took the stage as a recording of Jay Z’s “99 Problems” played. They tore into their opening song, “Come On Over,” with great gusto and did not relent once during their ferocious 45-minute set. They create a massive sound for just two guys and put on quite a live show. Among the highlights of Royal Blood’s set were “Figure It Out,” which sounds massive live, absolutely propulsive, and “Little Monster,” which was very heavy duty and received a big reaction from the crowd. Thatcher left his drum kit during the performance of “Out Of The Black” to climb down from the stage to greet the fans at the front of the field section as Kerr continued to play onstage. They completed their set with a snippet cover version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” played as an instrumental to give a nod to one of their influences. Royal Blood were very impressive and, without question, a must-see in concert. It’s not easy for a band that isn’t that well-known yet in America to get the overwhelmingly positive reaction that Royal Blood received at Citi Field. They are one of the best young bands around at the moment.
In the interval between the sets of Royal Blood and the Foo Fighters, the stage, which was in center field, was covered with a huge black curtain that featured the Foo Fighters’ stylized “FF” logo in black inside of a red circle. Taking the stage at around 8:40 p.m., the Foo Fighters began their set with “Everlong” while the curtain was still closed as the crowd roared. The roar grew even louder about 45 seconds into the song when the curtain was pulled away to reveal the band. Dave Grohl, seated in a specially built and mobile blinged-out “throne” with a rounded seat back bearing the band’s logo that also features flashing lights, was at center stage. (Grohl famously broke his right leg when he fell off of the stage at a concert in Sweden last month, and the leg was extended as he sat on the “throne.”) In addition to Grohl on guitar and lead vocals, the band, which is augmented by a keyboardist on this tour, also includes Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett on guitars, Taylor Hawkins on drums, and Nate Mendel on bass. They are touring in support of their Sonic Highways album, which was also featured in a terrific HBO documentary. In addition to the large video screen behind the band, two video screens on either side of the stage were used during the Foo Fighters’ set. Their performance was an old-school stadium rock show that was focused on the music.
After the opening performance of “Everlong,” which had the crowd in a frenzy, they ripped into an extended version of “Monkey Wrench.” Any concerns about the energy level of the band being affected by Grohl’s broken leg were quickly put to rest. The “throne” on which Grohl sat moved to the lip of the stage often so that Grohl could be closer to the crowd.
The energy level of the crowd seemed to increase during the extended version of “The Pretender” as it had the fans roaring. And the crowd sang along to the slow version of “Big Me,” which featured light drumming. Grohl drew many laughs from the crowd with the story of his right leg fracture, as the video screens showed the incident, the x-ray of the fracture, and Grohl’s drawing of what he wanted the “throne” to be. “Congregation” featured some great guitar work by Shiflett. One of Citi Field’s features, the “zipper” ads along the grandstand, was used to great effect during the performance of “Walk” as they were lit up with flashing soft light so that the entire crowd was visible. It was a powerful sight to see the crowd up on their feet and cheering. It gave the effect of making a stadium show seem somewhat intimate, which is not easy to do.
One of the great things about Grohl and his bandmates is that they are massive music fans, they wear their influences on their sleeves, and often talk about the bands and artists that inspired them. That was clear in the Sonic Highways documentary. During the band introductions at the Citi Field show, they played snippets of classic-rock songs as each member was introduced: KISS’ “Detroit Rock City” for Shiflett, Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” for Mendel, and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” for Smear. This led to Hawkins’ moment in the spotlight, as he took on the lead-vocal duties for “Cold Day In The Sun.”
For the acoustic portion of the set, Grohl walked to the lip of the stage using crutches and, accompanied by Shiflett and Smear on acoustic guitars, performed quite nice versions of “My Hero” and “Times Like These.” The crowd sang along in full-throated roar to “Times Like These,” which was one of the highlights of the show. During the acoustic set, Grohl very proudly told the crowd that the Sonic Highways documentary had been nominated for four Emmy Awards earlier in the day. The acoustic set also provided a needed respite from Grohl’s sometimes screamed vocals, which tend to become a bit monotonous over a two-hour-plus concert.
When the full band returned, they kicked into a terrific cover version of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” During the song, Grohl spoke to the crowd about the band’s love for classic rock and how they grew up listening to FM rock radio. They followed that up with an incredibly frenetic version of “All My Life.” The performance of “Breakout” was very heavy and received a nice reaction from the crowd. They reached into their bag of cover versions again for a great performance of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Breakdown.” And the heavy-duty performance of “Arlandria” received a massive roar from the audience.
Grohl got his start in music in hardcore punk, and has been a big fan of the genre since those days. One of the bands that inspired him was Bad Brains. Grohl seemed like a kid in a candy store when he brought two members of Bad Brains—bassist Darryl Jenifer and guitarist Dr. Know—onstage to join him, Smear, and Hawkins on the performance of two Bad Brains songs, “How Low Can A Punk Get” and “The Regulator.” They all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performance of those songs. Hopefully, that performance inspired some of the younger members of the crowd, who might have been unfamiliar with Bad Brains, to check out their music.
After the Bad Brains’ segment ended, the rest of the band returned to the stage to end their two-hour-and-40-minute show with rip-roaring versions of “This Is A Call” and “Best Of You.” The crowd, still full of energy after the long concert, was cheering loudly as the band tore through “Best Of You” to end the show. Grohl, walking with aid of crutches, and the rest of the band walked to the front of the stage following the performance of “Best Of You” to thank the crowd.
The Foo Fighters’ show is quite loud for an outdoor concert. If you are planning to see them on this tour, it might be a good idea to bring earplugs with you.
Royal Blood’s set list was as follows:
Come On Over
You Can Be So Cruel
Figure It Out
One Trick Pony
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Out Of The Black
Iron Man (snippet cover version of Black Sabbath song played as an instrumental)
The Foo Fighters’ set list was as follows:
Learn To Fly
Something From Nothing
Big Me (slow version)
Detroit Rock City (snippet cover version of KISS song during introduction of guitarist Chris Shiflett)
Jailbreak (snippet cover version of Thin Lizzy song during introduction of bassist Nate Mendel)
School’s Out (snippet cover version of Alice Cooper song during introduction of guitarist Pat Smear)
Cold Day In The Sun (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)
My Hero (acoustic)
Times Like These (acoustic)
Under Pressure (cover of song by Queen and David Bowie)
All My Life
Breakdown (cover of song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
How Low Can A Punk Get (cover of Bad Brains song featuring Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer and guitarist Dr. Know)
The Regulator (cover of Bad Brains song featuring Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer and guitarist Dr. Know)
This Is A Call
Best Of You