Four great bands, 35,000 adoring fans, and more Southern Cross tattoos than you could shake your metal-horns at. A gig that was could have been more aptly called a festival than any other before seen in Melbourne, descended upon AAMI Park to witness one of the world’s greatest rock bands, led by a man with a greater pedigree than Makybe Diva. It’s been a long time since Dave Grohl was on the drums behind Kurt Cobain in Nirvana, and while he has had stints with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails and supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, his main act throughout the years has been the Foo Fighters.
This is the first group of shows to ever be played at Melbourne’s newest sporting arena. Opened in May 2010, AAMI Park is Melbourne’s rectangular football stadium built to host Soccer and Rugby games. I’ve been to the stadium a number of times to watch the local soccer teams play, but was curious to see how the stadium would work as a concert venue. I’ve only ever been to one Stadium gig, the Silverchair and Powderfinger combined tour Across the Great Divide at Rod Laver Arena in 2007. I did witness Jet, INXS, and Lionel Richie play as warm-up to various AFL Grand Final entertainment, and generally have been left disappointed by the sound quality at the larger venues. Of course, these last couple are often pre-recorded, but needless to say I was a little worried about how well AAMI Park would perform as a venue. The stadium was set-up with the stage at one end and a long catwalk through the mosh-pit to the sound tent and a second smaller stage. Like the concept of the D at Big Day Out, the General Admission area was separated in two, in order to control the amount of people entering the front half.
With a huge night ahead, we arrived to see DZ Deathrays set. Despite being a favourite of NME Magazine in England, they’re still relatively small here. I was quite impressed with their, despite how short it was. With only 15 minutes to show off their talents, the duo were not daunted by the size of gradually filling stadium. The last time I saw them I thought the smaller venue somewhat muddied their sound, but in the large expanse of AAMI Park, they managed to sound more balanced. I would have preferred a longer set, but it really wasn’t their choosing and they made the most of the time offered.
With an event of this size, like many festivals, the crowd doesn’t get heavy until later in the evening. As DZ Deathrays played to a polite crowd, with perhaps a quarter of the stadium filled, Fucked Up had about half a stadium to play to. If you ignore the lead singer Pink Eye, the group are you standard punk band. But when you consider the fat, bald bloke wearing basketball shorts leading the group, things can get interesting. Especially when he chooses to remove his shirt after the first song and go running around the stadium. After forcing his way out through the mosh, Pink Eye could be seen climbing the first tier, getting photos with fans, sticking empty beer cups to his head and eventually putting on the wife-beater that was handed to him by a crowd member. Obviously someone who was not a fan of public indecency. For a bald man he sure had a lot of back-hair. You have to feel for the other band mates though, left on stage while this mad–man draw eyes away from them, but all through his antics they kept playing. I’m sure there used to these sorts of actions. To be perfectly honest, I found Pink Eye’s shouting a bit annoying, but the rest of the band were highly professional. I would prefer them with a more stable front-man.
Before I was really into music, I remember when Tenacious D released Tribute. Being the fun-loving 11 year-old that I was, Tribute was the greatest song ever written. But apart from that, I’ve never really liked Tenacious D as a band. Their songs are too comedic for my liking and Jack Black generally annoys me. So their performance was quite predictable. Fake an argument between the band, so Kyle storms off and then sing Kyle Quit The Band to get him back. It really is knock-out stuff. But most of the set was made up with Tribute, which had arguably the best sing along for the night, followed by the crowd favourite Fuck Her Gently. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan but I think they were a good choice to open.
By the time Foo Fighters, the stadium had completely filled. Standing in the front couple of rows of one of the greatest rockers in the world was quite an amazing moment. I don’t usually get awestruck, but I was for a few seconds. But as the opening few chords to Bridge Burning started ringing out, I was awoken in one particularly rough mosh-pit. The first six songs were rough, as the band played a mix of Wasting Light tracks and classics. The crowd shouted along to The Pretender, and pointed out to the man in front of them as he belted out My Hero.
It became clear as to the reason for the long catwalk, as Dave ran up and down often stopping on the second stage and play a quick guitar solos. At one stage, Dave and guitarist Chris Shiflett had a duel with one standing on each of the stages. It was quite an impressive showing. The main-set was quite evenly mixed between new and old, with Monkey Wrench and Stacked Actors making a showing, and Dave playing the “best song he’s ever written”, These Days off Wasting Light. The main set closed with an incredible cover of Pink Floyd’s In The Flesh before breaking into All My Life.
After negotiating with the crowd about how many songs to play in the encore from backstage, Dave returned alone with an acoustic guitar. As he positioned himself in the smaller stage, he belted in acoustic versions of Wheels, Big Me and Best Of You. He was joined on-stage for Big Me by his “biggest smallest fan”, an ill child from the Make A Wish Foundation in a particularly emotive moment. He was joined back on stage by the rest of the band during Times Like These, and finally stormed home with a cover of Tom Petty’s Breakdown and the two most requested songs of the evening Generator and at long last, Everlong.
It was a great performance from the World’s biggest rock band with some complimentary support. I am satisfied to think that I have now seen Dave Grohl live.