Foo Fighters, The 02 Arena, London

Rock's Mr Nice shows off his fighting spirit
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The Independent Culture

"I didn't have the work ethic when I was at school but somehow, afterwards, I got it," Foo Fighters' mainman Dave Grohl told me in 2001.

The son of a teacher and a journalist, Grohl dropped out of high school to join the Washington DC hardcore band Scream in the late 1980s and has barely stopped in the intervening 20 years. Six months after Kurt Cobain committed suicide in April 1994, Grohl emerged from the wreckage of Nirvana and was in the studio finishing what became Foo Fighters' eponymous debut.

Stepping out from behind the drum kit, Grohl took his first, tentative steps as a bona fide, guitar-playing frontman in small venues in 1995.

Six albums later, Foo Fighters have become natural festival and arena headliners and have hardly put a foot wrong, give or take welcoming Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen to perform "39" from A Night At The Opera, during the acoustic part of their set, as they did on Saturday.

Something of a regular occurrence at Foos' gigs, the appearance of the Queen twosome is testament to Grohl's status as a musician capable of bridging not one, but two generation gaps, if the age range of the sold-out 02 is anything to go by.

Opening with the quiet-loud "Let It Die" and the tight riff of "The Pretender" – both from current album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – and the anthemic "Times Like These", whose ping-pong guitar motif echoes around the arena, Grohl is like a wild horse let free. He flashes his pearly whites, he gets everyone onside by running from left to right and then over the gangway leading to the second stage.

And, when he can't think of anything else to do, he lets rip with one of his trademark roars or makes the most of the dramatic chord changes at the heart of the spine-chilling "Long Road To Ruin", before headbanging next to Pat Smear, the Germs guitarist who was a touring member of Nirvana and has returned to the Foos' to slot in alongside lead player Chris Shiflett when necessary.

The band expanded their palette with the double CD In Your Honour in 2005 and the acoustic set that the extended line-up perform on the circular satellite stage provides a welcome change of pace with drummer Taylor Hawkins singing "Cold Day In The Sun". But they remain at their best when, like their bright red light show, they deal in primary colours, on "Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)" or the blistering "Everlong" and "Monkey Wrench".

The Foos demonstrate an innate understanding of the dynamics of a rock show. Grohl remains the most personable man in rock, someone every fan can identify with. Foo Fighters may just be the last great American rock band.

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