Are you still reading? Yeah, I said Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. The names alone evoke scores of mind-numbing, just witty enough to be that much more boring, videos and singles. Corporate rock everyone. Alright. Both bands are respected worldwide for being nice guys. The VH1 Storytellers on Foo Fighters revolves around the fact that once, in the height of an addiction to chewing gum, Dave Grohl didn’t thank someone for opening a door from him.
The goody two shoes storyline for the Foos gets oh so much worse here in Iceland, a country Dave Grohl and the ever-revolving line-up of innocuous Foos swear they love more than Hawaii. Want a feel good story? In 2003, the Foos wandered out to Stokkseyri for lobster, then overheard a garage band, Nilfisk, loved said band, and invited this band of 16-year-olds to open their show.
Not happy enough for you? How about this: when they came back to Iceland, the Foos went back to Stokkseyri and put on a free concert for their friends. No lie.
Because the Foos are so damned nice, most of the roughly 8000 in attendance at the Foo Fighters/ Queens of the Stone Age show this July 5th were rooting for a Queens of the Stone Age upset. There was a full, intense house on hand to hear the Queens plough through somewhat unintelligible versions of “Little Sister” and “No One Knows.” Other songs may also have been hit singles, but due to severe live modification and the addition of two new unnecessary members, the Queens’ songs were unrecognizable. The overall impression, until the last three songs when new members disappeared and we actually saw a good powerhouse trio, was of Florida bar band blues—Ghost World’s Blueshammer came to mind. Listening to muddy, badly played blues, one couldn’t help but want to flee the enormous airport hangar that is Egilshöll, Iceland’s largest stadium. Then, on occasion, Troy Van Leeuwen nailed an interesting lead riff—there were no solos, and the Queens’ theme is to play the same riff repeatedly until it sounds like a song. But then that riff would fade, and you would remember you had decided to leave, but you hadn’t left, and now there were a pair of Germans behind you trying to mosh and you were stuck. Ah, the sweet experience of alternative rock in Europe. Crappy, crappy alternative rock.
Have I described that enough for you? Queens of the Stone Age was a disappointment. Unless you were a mosh-pitting German or heavily intoxicated, you probably weren’t having a good time. Just like high school.
Here’s where things went horribly, horribly wrong. The Foo Fighters, the nice guys of corporate rock, the boring guys, came on the stage and played songs from their recent string of boring albums, and they entertained the hell out of the crowd.
The reason they were able to do this is simple: Dave Grohl is not human. He is an alien from the planet Goroholik. This explains why he has been a popular rock star for the last fifteen years, but he has not aged a bit. This explains how he can do so many nice things, like play small towns in Iceland AT THE EXACT SAME TIME as he was building a maternity ward for a small charitable hospital in West Virginia.
If you did not know that Dave Grohl had done things like serve as the key ingredient that allowed Nirvana to launch into the mainstream, or that he had covered for American late night host David Letterman during the comedian’s emergency heart surgery, or that he had campaigned for Senator John Kerry, for whom Grohl’s new album is named, you could have figured out just from the show that Grohl was a superpowered alien.
Let’s start with the screaming. The man screams well. Really well. If he had only gone into teaching, Dave Grohl would have been the best Gym Teacher in the history of Virginia. The man can scream anything and make it fun. Truly, he put his powers to the test, as he screamed out the lyrics to his new album, In Your Honour, and the crowd looked at each other, befuddled, then raised their arms and screamed and danced back.
Curiously, despite the fact that Grohl would go on to scream for two hours, he still could revert to casually talking, or to singing in a surprisingly innocent, I-haven’t-been-screaming-for-two-hours voice.
Want more superpowers? Okay, how about this: Dude controls the timing of his band, dude plays solos, dude even sings his own BACKUP. Which means that the other Foo Fighters don’t really do much.
This became embarrassing as the night went on. The other Foos would stand there, strumming their various instruments, and Grohl would be the only person anybody in the audience would hear. Halfway through the set, Grohl decided to run halfway around the stadium, play some lead guitar, sprint back, then play more lead guitar and sing. He didn’t lose his breath. He didn’t break rhythm. The rest of the band didn’t come to the forefront, it was just SuperGrohl.
Ah, but we should discuss the music Grohl was playing. That may have been his alien weakness. As much as Grohl screamed and displayed his cosmically good timing, there’s only so much you can do with a chorus of “You know you make me break out. I don’t want to look like that.” To keep the concert fun, Grohl and his Foo Fighters stuck with songs from their good album, Colour and the Shape. And to Colour and the Shape’s credit, it entertained. “Everlong,” “Monkey Wrench” and the other songs from Grohl’s album about his relationship with a human woman, a mere mortal with whom he no doubt foresaw a tragic separation as she would get older and he would stay the same age, held their own as poignant little pop songs. Tunes from There is Nothing Left to Lose and One by One did not go down as well. And, as I said before, In Your Honour ain’t good, except that SuperGrohl screamed during it, which made many of us clap our hands despite ourselves.
Two hours went by in the firm grasp of Grohl’s presence. The crowd was exhilarated, if light-headed, and we danced and laughed when Grohl explained that he thought Iceland was great and fuck Hawaii, yes, fuck Hawaii.
An encore was eventually played, the crowd starting to show signs of exhaustion. Then, mercifully, Grohl let us go home. On the radio, we heard the announcement that Grohl foiled a cantankerous plot by the wretched duo of Lex Luthor and Nuclear Man to take over the city of Brasilia. Which was nice.