PROMOWEST PAVILION, COLUMBUS
MAY 26, 2003
A self-proclaimed Buckeye native, Dave Grohl ushered his band of Foo Fighters into Columbus to round out this holiday weekend with a large debt to pay. You see, the last time they were to play the capitol city was spring of 2000, when they were providing support for the cross-country arena tour of Red Hot Chili Peppers. After a late night of drunken debauchery on the University of Dayton campus the night before, Grohl was “unable to perform” that March ’00 show “due to illness.” Although he promised in a pre-Chili Peppers video taped message to get back real soon and settle his debt to Columbus, it’s taken him more than three years.
The sold-out crowd of nearly 8,000 revved up Memorial Day rockers packed the new Promowest Pavilion in its dazzling outdoor venue, most scattered across the lawn but a couple thousand jammed into the general admission moshpit area up front. Strewn between the dominantly youthful horde was a scant number of 30- and 40-somethings, as well as a celebrity or two (I met PGA golfer Mark Calcavecchia in the corporate suites). But the raving majority, especially in the pit area, was teenaged rebels with backwards ball caps, no shirts and tattered shorts, ideal for crowd surfing and body slamming.
Chicago thrash rockers Chevelle opened the show and were received moderately well, but rest assured, nobody in their right mind was there to see just them. As near darkness engulfed this perfect site, the house lights went down and the four Foo Fighters took up arms, Grohl brandishing his guitar and skinman extraordinaire Taylor Hawkins setting up camp behind the drum kit. Without so much as a salutation, Grohl etched right into the opening chords of “All My Life,” the first track of the latest record, One by One. As the rambunctious young crowd erupted, Grohl teased with this opening guitar riff for a moment or so, then asked, “Okay, does everyone have their super-sized draft beer and their glowsticks?”
“Here we go,” he declared, and dropped the needle on “All My Life.” With 2,000 deliberate kids thrusting themselves in any way feasible toward the stage, it literally felt like the ground was moving beneath my feet! From the very first verse the sound quality was astounding, exploding from a wall of amplifiers across and above the stage. It was immediately obvious from the outset that we were in for a non-stop, full throttle assault of testosterone, because without slowing to even say “hello” Grohl ripped from the opener straight into “The One” and then “My Hero.” A mere 10 minutes into the set, I honestly wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed if they had said, “Thank you, goodnight!” and walked off...it was that amazing an intro!
Just when I thought Grohl would stop for a gulp of water and a short story, he announces “Times Like These” (also from the latest record) and goes off for another three and a half minutes of complete sensory overload. By now it seemed like every adolescent dream had been realized, as literally hundreds of barely-clothed bodies, both male and female, had been tossed across the shifting sea of humanity within the moshpit like rag dolls. In my lifetime of concerts, I had not experienced such a raw, fervent, over-the-top landscape of pure rock and roll indulgence. And the Foos were just getting warmed up.
There was little use thinking about taking a sip of that aforementioned super-sized beer, because it didn’t stand a chance of surviving the battleground that was the pit. Even a quick bathroom break was impossible (not that I could have escaped the immediate area I was confined to) because before I knew it they had launched into the hit “Learn to Fly” as if they were on a mission the burn through every ounce of material they could in as short a period of time possible. Remember, Grohl owed us from three years ago, and he was hell-bent on making good.
Following a brief tale about how he spent part of his childhood living in Columbus, Grohl let his more-than-accomplished drummer Hawkins escort the strident “Stacked Actors” from 1999’s There is Nothing Left to Lose, a rousing fan favorite. Hawkins is fabulous, simply one of the most underrated drummers in the business today! He reminded me of Animal from The Muppets, as his blonde, sweaty mop of hair was flung from front to back in a constant tantrum that seemed unattainable for the duration of the show. As if there was anything left to prove, they cranked up “Hey, Johnny Parks” and “Monkey Wrench” from The Colour and the Shape record, with the stage presence and artistry of a band creating a live album. I really could not believe the no-holds-barred determination and purposeful mind-set they had toward this show. It was like they were playing their final show ever!
“This is a Call” brought the mighty regular set to a close and, for the first time in an hour, the bodies ceased surfing above the front section of crowd. But this wouldn’t last. Foo Fighters reappeared to deafening approval and offered a final payment on that three-year debt. “Aurora” preceded the wildly popular “Everlong” and the fevered pitch of this mob unimaginably found a new level. Then, barely an hour and a half after breaking out, the controlled riot that was the Foo Fighters was gone into the early summer night. All that was left were dog-tired and even bloodied creatures of life, dragging themselves to the gates as if they had just played English rugby for three days against monsters twice their size. Thank God, I was one of them.