REVIEW: With strong new songs to fit in with oldies at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, Dave Grohl kept playing and playing.
There wasn't a giant mechanical-arm drum riser like Blink-182 employed a week earlier. They didn't have the Top 40 airplay or new Rolling Stone cover story like Lil Wayne brought to town last month. Nor were there costume changes or an army of dancers as in Britney Spears' show in July. There weren't even any bad reality-TV shows or plastic surgery ala the Poison and Mötley Crüe two-fer show in June.
So what did Wednesday's Foo Fighters gig have that all these other recent Xcel Energy Center concerts didn't?
Attendance topping 8,000, for one thing (the Foos impressively sold out at 13,000 people). And a set that lasted more than 90 minutes, for another (try 2 1/2 hours). Oh, and a genuine sense that this show meant everything in the world to the participating musicians.
Coming off a three-week break and kicking off their fall tour in St. Paul, the Foos burned bright in all-or-nothing fashion throughout Wednesday's set. They sounded well-rehearsed, but also physically refreshed. You don't need to be a throat specialist to know frontman Dave Grohl won't be able to howl his way through "Walk" deeper into the tour with the same intensity as he displayed in St. Paul.
The band also had the uneasy task of balancing an unusually strong batch of new material with its long list of favorites. Instead of choosing between the eras, it just opted to play songs from both -- and thus go uncommonly long.
"You guys know we have like another hour left?" Grohl warned 90 minutes in, as fans threatened to finally take their seats for the mellower "Skin & Bones." They were all back up just one song later for "This Is a Call," a song Dave Grohl dedicated to the two members of pioneering Twin Cities punk band Hüsker Dü who were in attendance (Grant Hart and Greg Norton). He then called up ex-Minneapolitan violinist Jessy Greene, who played on the last Foo Fighters tour (but not this one), for an acoustic version of "See You."
The Foos showed the cool kind of rock nostalgia. They brought along a punky opening band, Rise Against, who recounted playing in the basement of the old Foxfire Lounge (old school!). They sold T-shirts for $25, a price more commonly seen in clubs. And they skipped their first big MTV hit, "Big Me," and stuck to meatier, fiercer fare such as "Breakout," "Monkey Wrench" and "Stacked Actors."
Some of their most powerful moments came off the new album, "Wasting Light," including the openers "Bridge Burning" and "Rope," plus "Walk" and one of the thrashiest Foo songs of all time, "White Limo." The latter was symbolically accompanied with video of Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmeister in a driver's seat.
Grohl might have had Lemmy in mind when he bragged midway through the marathon set, "We can do a show in front of all these people after all this time without any computers behind us. Drums and guitars, that's all. It's still possible."
A bit gratuitous, yes, but also as true as his promise to play nearly all night.
See the set list at startribune.com/artcetera.