A date that will live long in my memory, and indeed in the memories of the nearly 100,000 people who attended this once in a lifetime event, will be 3 September 2022.
I’ve been a Foo Fighters fan for as long as I can remember, and count the two times I’d been to see them previously among the best days of my life. I remember, as an 18-year-old working behind the bar on a pub quiz night, having a friend come to the bar, order a cider and casually explain his neighbours were not well. He asked me if I had any interest in taking their tickets to see my favourite band at the Olympic Stadium the following day for 20 quid. After picking my jaw up from the floor, I threw a £20 note at him and told him I’d be there.
They did not disappoint; in fact, they blew away my already sky-high expectations, with Hawkins’ spectacular raised drum solo as a particular highlight. So impressed was I, that when it was announced that they would return to the UK to play Reading Festival in 2019, I bought a day ticket.
I once again was stunned at how awesome a stage presence Grohl and co could hold – who else could bring Rick Astley out to do a rocked up version of “Never Gonna Give You Up”?
With those fabulous memories comes a sobering one – waking up to hear the news that Taylor Hawkins had passed away, at only 50 years of age. It was strange, considering that I’d never met the man personally, only watched him perform from afar – but I felt quietly numb for some time after hearing about his death.
As a drummer myself, I admired the man’s incredible ability, but also his drive, all while maintaining his awesomely laid-back, surfer vibe. A true artist, a perfectionist and without question, the best of his generation and one of the all-time greats. I still think about how we’ll never be graced with his playing again, but take comfort in the fact that, as the cliché goes, his music will live forever.
I can also look back to this gig, and I’m so grateful to the Hawkins family and Foo Fighters for putting it on. The event allowed the fans they have accumulated over the past 25 years to show our love and appreciation for a man who has left us with lasting memories.
Despite line up announcements that would have made Glastonbury jealous, I entered the day with a little confusion. Were Foo Fighters simply going to invite all these guests up one by one, and what is Dave Chappelle doing there? I was also wary – the day promised the gathering of some of the greatest musicians of the last 50 years, and that is a lot of egos sharing one space, especially in an industry full of them. I wanted to be sure that this day was completely about Taylor, that nobody else would use this time for Foos fans to grieve to make headlines, or steal the show.
I needn’t have worried. Those of us lucky to attend were treated to some mind-boggling crossovers scarcely imaginable a day earlier. Lars Ulreich on drums while Brian Johnson sings “Back In Black”? sign me up! Liam Gallagher singing “Live Forever” with the incredible Grohl on kit? Hell yeah!
As I write this, I have to ask myself – did that really happen? Did Paul McCartney actually grace the stage? Did I get hear Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” (one of my favourite songs of all time) vocally nailed by Dave’s daughter, Violet?
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There were so many more moments like these on this star-studded evening, but tying it all together was Taylor Hawkins. A few acts shared stories, others looked to the sky or dedicated a song to him – everyone was here to celebrate the legendary drummer. Perhaps most impressively was the reforming of James Gang after 15 years, just to pay their respects.
One of the most poignant moments of the evening saw many in the crowd choke back tears alongside Dave Grohl as he struggled to sing “Times Like These”. Another saw a massive collective sigh as Taylor’s 16-year-old son, Shane, took his father’s place behind the Foo Fighters’ drum kit and blasted out a powerfully perfect performance of “My Hero”. He really did look so much like his dad, and he played just as well.
You had to hand it to Grohl, every song choice had so much meaning packed into it, and I’m certain Taylor would have been in awe of the event they put on for him.
So many memories created and experiences shared for almost 100,000 people crammed into one of the greatest stadiums in the world to celebrate your life: that seems like a fitting funeral for a rock god.