Foo Fighters Rock ACL Day 1: Austin Is 'F---ing Nice'
Given that Foo Fighters brought out Gary Clark Jr. for a guest spot at nearly every tour stop for the past week or so, it wasn’t enormously surprising that the 31-year-old Austin-bred guitar hero once again appeared to play his searing blues solo on “What Did I Do? / God As My Witness” toward the end of the headliners’ 2-hour Friday night set, which kicked off at 8 p.m. (CT) on the enormous Samsung Galaxy stage to close out the first day of the 14th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Still, it was no less momentous witnessing Clark pull it off in front of a hometown crowd with the cherry-red Gibson SG – the star axe of his own resplendently raucous set shortly before on the HomeAway stage – gifted to him by Foos rhythm guitarist Pat Smear during the song’s recording for eighth album Sonic Highways at Austin’s famed Studio 6A (the original home of the PBS-produced TV concert series). And the performance did pack the most punch by far among the few tracks pulled from the latest disc (“Something From Nothing” and “Congregation” thrilled early on).
“He made [that guitar] his f – ing bitch, and then Pat was like, ‘Keep it,’” recounted frontman Dave Grohl, still commanding the quintet from his Game of Thrones-inspired power-chair created to prop up his broken yet now merely booted right leg and wheel him down a short catwalk to face a sea of generations-spanning fans. “I don’t even know how to follow (that song).”
Yet just afterward, ferocious runs through first album tune “This is a Call” and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh,” sung by appropriately gruff-voiced drummer Taylor Hawkins, proved more powerful than obligatory hits like “Learn to Fly,” “The Pretender” and “Times Like These” (though “All My Life” is still unsurpassed among their live arsenal to fuel Grohl’s maniacal, mosh-pit-inciting mane flips). Those tunes also outshone much of the day’s impressively varied fare, though Leon Bridges, Royal Blood and local rockers Leopold and His Fiction certainly scored high marks.
As was fitting to end a set that read like a love-letter to the Lone Star State’s capital – Grohl praised the city throughout the set, calling it “f – ing nice” and mentioning before a mellow take on “Big Me” that they’d been “coming here since we were kids” – there was a promise before closing anthem “Best of You” to return (aside from the obvious next Friday, Oct. 9, for ACL’s encore weekend).
“The last time we played this fest was maybe eight years ago,” Grohl said. (Close, but it was actually seven, back in 2008 alongside headliners Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Manu Chao and Beck). “We’re gonna go home, take 10 years off, I’ll look like the Unabomber, then we’ll do it all again.”
Irrefutably, the Foo Fighters owned the evening. The band’s members were so caught up the moment that they didn’t even notice the steady thump of Disclosure resounding faintly from the Honda stage, clear across Zilker Park’s expanse.
“Is that a dance tent or something?” asked Hawkins at one point, gesturing beyond their vast sea of faithful fans.“I don’t know … they have nice lights, though,” replied Grohl before plowing ahead with the next tune, perfectly oblivious to anything but the arena-sized rock show at hand.
Learn To Fly
Something From Nothing*
Band intros (snippets of Eruption, Roundabout, MTV Theme Song and Tom Sawyer)
All My Life
Times Like These
Skin and Bones
What Did I Do? / God As My Witness (with Gary Clark Jr.)*
This is a Call
In the Flesh (Pink Floyd cover)
Best of You