A group that famously asked whether someone is “getting the best of you,” the Foo Fighters once again had Twin Cities fans wondering if they were getting the band at its best.
The ’90s alt-rock sextet — we could probably go ahead and call them a classic-rock act at this point — returned to Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night, three years after their ever-affable frontman Dave Grohl performed there with a broken leg in a cast. In that case, the typically high-strung singer/guitarist soldiered on like the champion celebrated in his classic 1997 anthem “My Hero.”
This time around, fans might have forgiven Grohl, 49, for hobbling into St. Paul simply out of exhaustion. Xcel Center turned out to be the last U.S. stop on the Foos’ Concrete and Gold Tour, which started a full 16 months ago and saw them perform everywhere from Seoul to Sioux Falls. Only two Canadian make-up gigs remain in the run.
To help light up Thursday’s sold-out crowd of almost 16,000 fans, the Foo recruited buzzing young Australian band Gang of Youths to open -- something of a self-challenge, since the quintet lived up to its reputation as a visceral live act.
Singer David Le’aupepe came off like a Molotov frontman cocktail soaked in Springsteen and, yep, Grohl, working his way deep into the crowd in “Magnolia” and dedicating “The Heart Is a Muscle” to his newly deceased father.
Grohl certainly did not let the young buck show him up, though. He literally hit the stage running and looked as indefatigable as always, his long hair constantly flailing along to the guitar riffage and his demeanor as charming and fun-loving as ever.
The singer did suffer from a hoarse voice throughout the nearly three-hour performance, though, a problem that was severe enough to force a postponement last month of those two Canadian shows but wasn’t too much of a spoiler Thursday. Some of his more dramatic, Bono-baiting songs such as “These Days” and “Learn to Fly” suffered as a result, but the band’s many full-throttle howlers just came with a little extra gravel in their grit.
Ignoring (or perhaps forgetting) next week’s dates, Grohl declared Thursday the last night of their North American tour.
“We’ve been on the road for a year and a half,” he said proudly. “Tonight, we’re here to celebrate!”
The party took a while to get going, though. First came more songs from the “Concrete and Gold” album, ones mostly forgotten a year and a half later, but they at least gave Grohl a little time to save his voice. A trio of unannounced female backup singers added a little swagger to “La Dee Da.” Then drummer Taylor Hawkins sang his album contribution, “Sunday Rain,” from a Kiss-worthy, two-story drum riser.
As if telling the crowd to be patient, Grohl said, “We’ve been around 25 years. We’ve got a lot of songs to play.”
The rise-up song “Walk” did the trick, raising the audience’s enthusiasm level 45 minutes into the set. Then “The Pretender” — one of the band’s crunchiest and best hits — put it over the top, where it stayed through most of the second half as the Foo crew picked the cream of its nine albums save for the 1995 eponymous debut (an unfortunate oversight). “Breakout” and “Best of You” were ecstatic crowd pleasers, but it’s still hard to beat the highlights from 1997’s “The Colour and the Shape” that served as the pre-encore finale, including “My Hero,” "Monkey Wrench" and the ever-thrilling “Everlong.”
Even not in fine voice, Grohl showed plenty of good humor, goofing around with a mash-up of Lennon’s “Imagine” and Van Halen’s “Jump” and poking fun at his own ’90s-brand angst in “Breakout.”
“I bust my ass up here,” he said at one point, the nearest he came to admitting any road weariness. “You know why? ’Cuz I [bleepin’] love rock ’n’ roll.”
That was still obvious. Sixteen months into a tour and 25 years into a career, obviously that’s really saying something.
Here's the Foo Fighters' full marathon of a set list from Thursday:
- The Sky Is a Neighborhood
- La Dee Da
- Sunday Rain (with drum solo)
- Something From Nothing
- These Days
- The Pretender
- Times Like These
- All My Life
- Learn to Fly
- Band intros with Imagine/Jump, Another One Bites the Dust, Blitzkrieg Bop, Under Pressure
- My Hero
- Monkey Wrench
- Breakdown (Tom Petty cover)
- White Limo
- Cold Day in the Sun
- Best of You