Foo Fighters, Old Trafford: A big, ballsy night of thrilling predictability

Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters at Old Trafford - Carsten WIndhorst/Camera Press

“Rain macs, ponchos, cash or card.” It wasn’t the refrain I’d hoped to hear from hawkers outside Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground ahead of the opening night of the Foo Fighters’ seven-date summer stadium tour of the UK. With the solstice just a week away, sun hats and Soltan might have been expected. Still, 50,000 hardy souls shivered in thick rain and blustery wind as the show got underway. Support act Wet Leg were aptly named.

Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl steamed up to the microphone like local hero Jimmy Anderson on a fifer – and didn’t relent for almost three hours. “I hope you motherf-----s wore comfortable shoes because we’re going to be here all night,” screeched the 55 year-old as the band blasted through hits such as Monkey Wrench and Learn to Fly. Grohl may look like a rock wildman in the vein of Ozzy Osbourne – all flailing hair (“I need a haircut, man – I haven’t seen you in two hours”) and tattoos – but he’s more akin to everyone’s favourite uncle.

A bit edgy, but a comforting presence who won’t be chomping the heads off your pets any time soon. And this is the US band’s trick: they’re relatable, as the parlance goes, and put on consistently reliable rock shows that dole out hit after hit and give their loving audience precisely what they want. It doesn’t matter that Grohl does his “play all night” shtick at every show. Fans lap it up.

This is the band’s first full tour without drummer Taylor Hawkins, who in March 2022 was found dead aged 50 in a Bogota hotel room. A tribute concert in Wembley Stadium six months after Hawkins died attracted 90,000 fans and lasted for six hours. Hawkins was much-loved, which made it a nice move to give new drummer Josh Freese a solo at the end of the first song (even if poor Freese appeared to become Freese-ing at one point, draping a blanket over his shoulders to keep the cold out). He bashed out a bit of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll before displaying stunning virtuosity without feeling the need to replicate Hawkins’s presence or playing style (think a super-skilled Animal from the Muppets). Grohl dedicated their 1999 song Aurora to Hawkins – it was his favourite Foos song. It was a delicate moment, nicely underplayed.

Grohl said that Britain has been the Foos’ “home away from home” over their 30-year career, the country having taken the band under its wing after Grohl’s previous band Nirvana ended following Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Everyone’s advancing years were gently mocked. “For those who haven’t seen us before, look at the bald guy next to you and just do what he’s doing,” said Grohl.

It’s rare at gigs to see everyone – all the way to the back – singing along with their arms aloft. But My Hero’s chanted refrain went on for many minutes, the longest Grohl had ever seen. “We’ve got a rock concert now, motherf-----s,” he said.

The gig entered its third hour with All My Life and Best of You. During Everlong, Grohl “did a Bono” and walked down the ego ramp with just a microphone after his guitar cut out. It was a nice human moment. But that’s Dave. Were any boundaries breached with this show? No. But neither were any googlies bowled. It was a big, ballsy, blustery night of thrilling predictability.

Touring the UK until June 27. Tickets: