Foo Fighters, Wembley Stadium, London

2.00

The Foo Fighters are one of the biggest rock bands in the world now, and I still struggle to see why. This first headlining gig at Wembley, and last album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace's debut in the UK charts at No 1, confirm their conquest here. But it has been a traceless rise, leaving few truly memorable songs or moments. All that lingers, as with tonight's show, is the fiercely grinning good humour and heart of Dave Grohl. The cliché that he is the nicest man in rock seems true, an honourable thing after his last band Nirvana's end. But musically, that means nothing.

Tonight's support band, Supergrass, Britpop heroes in the mid-Nineties wake of grunge's post-Cobain collapse, suggest Foo Fighters' missing ingredients. Hits including "Richard III", "Moving", "Caught by the Fuzz", "Pumping On Your Stereo" and the rarely played "Alright" combine careless adolescent fizz, dumb rock and melancholy pop, tackled here with stadium volume and pretty harmonies. Their hits' distinct, nagging melodies, the hooks that keep you hanging on, are what is missing later: the Foos' Achilles heel.

At least you can't fault Grohl for effort. When the gothic black cage around the stage is lifted, he runs down a walkway the length of the stadium, hollering throat-shredding exhortations, getting as close to as many of the huge crowd as he can. He is insisting on his human presence in this massive space, trying to obliterate the distances around him. As the crowd reach back out to him, it's a masterly, typically well-meant stadium entrance.

"I used to think this place was big," Grohl is soon considering, in the booming voice of a carnie huckster. "It's massive! I love it!" It makes me think for a moment, of course, of what it would have been like if Nirvana was playing this place, in this mood, 13 years on. There are allusions scattered through Foo Fighters' songs to the pain of that past, always tempered by positivity. "You just saved my life," as Grohl sings on "Best of You". The comparisons with his old band are in his favour in many ways. There is something redemptive and admirable in a man who went through such a grubby, globally picked-over trauma playing such relentlessly exuberant, indomitable music. It's preferable in spirit to Cobain's stomach-twisting, smack-flattened last days.

Exuberance, melody and galloping momentum are Foo Fighters' mode. Whatever the lyrical subtleties, the flat-out joyous emotion is permanently turned up to 11. There are few pauses for breath, or thought. If you're a fan dancing down the front, the constant pumping beat must be exhausting and ecstatic. But for me, the unvarying pace might as well be slow. When you stay at top speed, momentum goes nowhere.

"Long Road to Ruin" gives a clue to Foo Fighters' breakthrough to audiences that Nirvana never reached. It is one of several songs drawing on pumped-up, 1980s-style power ballads, part of the unhip US pop hinterland that Grohl, like Cobain, always loved. It's no surprise that he instructs any future rock stars in the stadium to watch a video of Queen playing Live Aid at this venue, to see "what to do".

"Stacked Actors", reputedly about Courtney Love ("I'm impressed, what a beautiful chest... you're just another ageing drag queen") starts a period of sustained, stimulating variety. Grohl's squealing guitar solo and Taylor Hawkins' extended drum solo suggests another model, Led Zeppelin. They lack the sonic invention, but gain in punk concision. Jessy Green's Eastern European fiddling on "Skin and Bone" and the Bruce Hornsby-like splash of Hammond organ on "My Hero" add to the late-blooming layers, as the sun sets and red light bathes the crowd.

But for all the head-banging effort, the unruly unpredictability of Foo Fighters' rock'n'roll heroes never arrives. I leave liking them, but feeling musically blank.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms