Daytripper: The Return of the Foo Fighters, 05/24/2023


Shows like the one I witnessed last night are why I started my “Daytripper” series of concert reviews. The Capital District gets a lot of great concerts, but sometimes you need to make a drive to catch something truly historic. On Wednesday morning, I packed the car and drove four hours to the Granite State for what would become my favorite road trip so far.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

Foo Fighters returned triumphantly to the stage last night in Gilford, New Hampshire, at the Bank of NH Pavilion. This was their first concert since the untimely passing of their beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins. This was a day that many fans thought might never come. Four hundred twenty-five days have passed since Hawkins died while the band was on tour in South America. “It’s times like these you learn to live again.” No lyrics could be more appropriate than these.

The venue is intimate, with a capacity of just nine thousand, including the lawn. They could have picked any stadium in the world and it would have sold out. Instead, they treated their fans to a once-in-a-lifetime experience at one of the nicest outdoor amphitheaters in the country. A steady rain fell as fans lined up to claim the best spots in the pit and in the lawn. The precipitation did not seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. To cut down on scalping and price gouging online, the band decided not to allow ticket transfers for this show. Not every fan got the message. I watched as dozens of exasperated fans were told that the tickets they purchased online were no good. To their credit, the staff at the venue were exceptional with their customer service. They found ways to get people into the sold-out event anyway. I watched as a family of four nearly had to turn around and drive five hours home before a kind Live Nation worker could get them in on the rainy lawn. It is nice to see that some places still prioritize customer service.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

Dave Grohl and company wasted no time getting reacquainted with their fans and introducing new drummer Josh Freese. Freese played with the band at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts last year and was the most obvious choice for the job. Freese is a consummate professional who can play anything well. He has played with everyone from Michael Buble to Nine Inch Nails. While there is no replacing Hawkins, Freese did an impeccable job. He was very clearly enjoying his moment in the spotlight. Fans let him know that he was not only a welcome addition to the band, but they were so happy that he helped bring this band back to life. Dozens of signs dotted the crowd welcoming him. He was all smiles, sporting an “Employee of the Month” T-shirt and laughing with Grohl during the songs. His technical prowess was jaw-dropping. He added extended fills throughout the night. His work on “Breakout” had me standing literally wide-eyed. There is a reason that he has played on over 300 records and has been the go-to session musician of choice for so many artists.

The concert was a celebration of Hawkins’s life and the music that Foo Fighters have created over the past 29 years. This tour is in support of, But Here We Are, the brand-new ten-song album slated for a June release. One of the new tracks is called “Under You.” The lyrics deal with the loss of Hawkins, and it is a touching tribute from one friend to another. “Someone said I’ll never see your face again. Part of me just can’t believe it’s true. Pictures of us sharing songs and cigarettes, this is how I’ll always picture you.” Grohl’s heart was firmly planted on his sleeve as he led the crowd in a sort of musical group therapy session. I can’t even begin to imagine the strength it took for him to write those words, much less perform them live. Every person who loves this band misses Hawkins, none more than Dave Grohl. His pain and loss were palpable, but the show must go on. Late in the show, a single image appeared on the video screen. The silhouette of Taylor’s famous hawk tattoo blinked to life behind the band. Grohl made his way to the mic with an acoustic guitar as the band exited the stage. He played the Hawkins penned and sung track “Cold Day in the Sun” It was cathartic for everyone in the amphitheater. The song had not been played live since 2018, and it was a showstopper, raw and vulnerable.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

Grohl has always been one of rock’s most entertaining and energetic frontmen. Last night he raised the bar. It was a lot as if he felt the need to remind the world that he is rock’s ultimate bandleader. This band is stacked with the dual guitar attack of Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, complimenting Grohl’s own playing. They clearly have fun together on stage, interjecting Black Sabbath and Van Halen riffs into Foo Fighters songs. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee is the newest member of the band, and he adds color and nuance to the harder-edged songs. Bassist Nate Mendel holds down the low end and, with Freese, propels the band with urgency.

The setlist pulled from all ten of the band’s studio albums, with four tracks from But Here We Are getting their live debut. They opened the show with the new song “Rescued.” It slammed. I couldn’t think of a better way to shake off any cobwebs. There was something for everything from the casual fan to the die-hards. Grohl welcomed his daughter Violet onto the stage to sing “Shame Shame” with him. He beamed with pride when she sang, just another reminder that while being a musical legend, he was just a regular guy. They closed the show as they do most nights. Grohl says that he doesn’t like saying goodbye to the fans, so he leaves them with “Everlong.” From the intro riff to the last note, it was perfection. The Foos are back, and the world is a better place for it. They move on to Boston for this weekend’s Boston Calling Festival. The residents of Beantown won’t know what hit them.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

Power rock duo Taipei Houston opened the show with a thirty-minute set. The band, comprised of brothers Myles Uhlrich on drums and Layne Uhlrich on bass and vocals, grabbed the crowd’s attention early on. The drummer was especially impressive, beating the hell out of the kit just like another, more famous fellow, Uhlrich. An instrumental version of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby” shouldn’t work with just a bass and drums, but it was brilliant. As mentioned, they are the sons of Metallica’s Lars Uhlrich, a fact that they do not go their way to advertise. I only found out because a fan next to me informed me. They are cutting their path musically. Give them a listen.

  1. Rudy says

    Outstanding work Claude. Nice write up as well as photos.

  2. Rob Lovett says

    Great review and those are some sweet pictures! I was there! Incredible show!

  3. Paula Shank says

    Fantastic review, I loved it! Awesome photos as well. I would have loved to have been there and couldn’t, so thank you for this. These guys ROCK!!

  4. Sandy Flerra says

    Great review! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a concert like I did Wednesday night!! I cried, laughed and danced my ass off. It was a emotional night, and my heart goes out to Dave and the boys… it’s times like these you learn to live again!!

  5. bob LaRoche says

    Wow! This article s incredibly well-written. I’m not being condescending as this is how I would have described the concert since I was in attendance as well. So, ditto on everything above and thank you for the talented writing.

  6. Courtney says

    I worked this show and I can honestly say that it was a privilege to do so. I’ve worked at this venue for 8 years and having them start their comeback tour with us was quite an honor! The feel of the crowd was amazing. I hope the band felt the support and love from them. Started our 2023 season off with a bang! Thank you FooFighters and all of your fans for a fantastic show! 🎶♥️ (and thank you for your kind words about our venue. I love it…and we try, as a team, to make it a memorable experience for all).

  7. Ddonna says

    So very true, once in a lifetime experience at one of the nicest amphitheaters …… it was a raw show of emotion in a very intimate place. Very special.

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