Dave Grohl is a magnificent bastard. He leads a fellowship of magnificent bastards. This can now, after watching them three times across ten years, be a known known.
Last week we saw the Foo Fighters in a big, hollow stadium in Melbourne. My much better half had never been and I promised her that by the end, she’d be in love with Dave Grohl. A touch under three hours, later, once the tidal surge of good, honest, balls out rock and roll subsided, she knew what I meant – even if Hawkins grabbed her more than Grohl.
They love what they do and I suppose this stands out in a world where most of us aren’t close to doing what we really love. Money, fame, notoriety aside, these guys make a mockery of us because they genuinely – no scams, no bullshit – love what they do.
This is etched deep and string on their faces. It manifests in the way Dave Grohl, newly 49, runs the stage like a dog off the leash. He bounds with childish abandon, not to prove a point, or for effect, but because he has to. It manifests when Pat Smear breaks into a sixty foot giggle playing the same guitar he played a few nights ago, in a different city, with the same joy. Or when Taylor Hawkins crashes the drums and grimaces with the ecstasy of toil, lurching around the stage like a long toothed skater boy, singing Queen’s Under Pressure as Dave (from fricking Nirvana!) thumps the drums. It manifests when Chris Shifflet bangs out an Alice Cooper song like it ain’t a big deal for lead guitarists to get almost 50,000 people jumping.
As Dave would say – motherfuckers. Magnificent motherfuckers.
That they never appear jaded, or flat, or burned out is a little annoying. They never phone it in or go through the motions. They never show the bone deep road fatigue or same shit, different day funk you see in some bands after a long tour. It is a unique skill, or talent, to make every new crowd feel like virgins.
And the energy and joy this brings is infectious and remarkable.
For these reasons they are every bit as good as Springsteen and AC/DC.
All these acts make you think if you waved a wand, removed the vast stage, fame and adoration and wished them into a struggling garage band, full of middle aged account managers and teachers, they would play just as hard for whoever came to watch. And you can be sure they would give nothing less.
Near the end, they made tribute to the recently departed Malcolm Young, rhythm and heartbeat of AC/DC. As the band banged out ‘Let There Be Rock’, adrenalised and heaving, a tall effigy made from light loomed behind. Malcolm appeared, a ghostly fretboard reaching out over us, like he approved. Spines shuddered and tingled.
The link between Dave and Malcolm as people and musicians was clear. They loved and respected good, honest, balls out rock and roll music – the kind that makes you want to wear your hair long and fill wardrobe with black clothing. The kind that forces middle aged folks to close their eyes tight and bang air drums or pluck air basses.
History must remember Dave Grohl as a magnificent bastard. He is a musical tour-de force born to do it, fronting a bunch of people in exactly the same boat.
And perhaps that is the really galling and sad thing about watching them. Most of us don’t get to have that much fun anymore. In itself, this is tragic.
Dave refused to say goodbye, as he does, and we melted into the night, souls throbbing, before a train delay bring us back down like the melted wings of Icarus. Dave and the band went off flying to New Zealand, where in two nights they would fly up and touch the sun again, wild haired and sweaty.
Our heads hit the pillow, music echoed and our dreams were filled with Dave’s all teeth smile, two parts mischief and three parts joy.
Dave Grohl is a magnificent bastard.