NME Big Gig: Foo Fighters, Wembley Arena, London

3.00

Dave Grohl's Godlike Genius Award from NME shortly before this gig is a definition of debased currency. For the better part of two hours after two years away, he leads Foo Fighters through a show of fearsome stamina and volume. When he says "this could take all night", like Al Jolson you believe him. But as drummer in Nirvana or leader of his own amiable band, Grohl will never surprise you no matter how long he plays. His unasked for, universal acknowledgement as the Nicest Man in Rock isn't itself a creative act.

Comparisons with a man with very different flaws are unfair. But if you made them, you'd have to say that the Foos are a band Kurt Cobain might have formed to hide from expectation, not meet it. There's a sharp little drum fill on the single "Rope", one of several songs from the upcoming new album, Wasting Light, tonight. Apart from that, normal service is resolutely resumed.

"My Hero", like "Learn to Fly", "Times Like These" and the probably Courtney Love-damning "Stacked Actors", faintly draws on the poignancy and resolution of Grohl's early career. Though honourably meant, it's as generically comforting as Coldplay. Heard blind, it's the sort of rom-com soundtrack staple Bon Jovi would murder for. The simple pop alchemy of "The Pretender" hides an invocation to resist the fakery and doublethink of the now receding Bush years, but you'd have to listen very hard to know it. Grohl's decency is never in doubt. He just can't help keeping the musical results clean.

The return of Pat Smear to Grohl's left brings the phalanx of guitarists to three. You suspect that ten would be more like the ultimate rocking sound he hears in his head. Hundreds of punched fists (and an ambitious, doomed crowd-surfer who sets off from the middle of the arena, and sinks far from his goal) show he connects to many. The sight of a young man in a black rocker's jacket carefully filling a pint glass with regurgitated red wine in the Gents also suggests that, for some, this still counts as the sort of Bacchanalian rock show Grohl attended in his own, itinerant Midwest youth. The antiseptic surroundings and sounds can be overcome if you try. But as Grohl references a Foos gig of 16 years back – making Nirvana's career a mere speck – and salutes the loyal British "old men" who've stuck with them, it's clear he is still a fan himself. From his stentorian spoken Rock Voice to his throat-shredding howl, to the guitar-player shapes thrown while muscularly roaming the stage, he could still be in front of his teenage mirror. The leap through the looking glass is sadly beyond this maker of athletic, soft-rock music.

This NME Big Gig has more entertaining moments. Cee Lo Green, noting he's at a rock show, wears a black biker's jacket, and is flanked by a gorgeous, black-catsuit-clad female band. "What do I do for a living?" he wonders. "I do what I want." Wembley's cavern neuters the finest, most complex young soul singer around. But it suits Band of Horses, whose warmly communal Southern grunge guitars give pleasure I can't find at the bill's top.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there