Dave Grohl’s journey from the heartbreak of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s suicide to the stadium rock sunny uplands frequented by Foo Fighters is proof even the most anguishing stories can have happy endings.
He was certainly full value for his “nicest man in rock” reputation at the second of two sold-out Irish shows, the Foos’ first visit to these shores since headlining a muddy Slane Castle in 2015. Under grey skies that unleashed the occasional downpour, he and his lieutenants romped through one of the sturdiest songbooks in arena pop.
Grohl has traveled quite a distance from the open wound ferocity of Nirvana. But having stared into the abyss with his previous band, he understands that sometimes it’s fine to just turn up, put on a smile, and give your audience a good time.
This he certainly did. A defiant optimism crackled through Times Like These and My Hero (dedicated to the Irish physiotherapist who helped Grohl recuperate from a broken leg). Alongside these tub-thumpers there was room for more melancholic early numbers, such as a slowed down Big Me and, right at the end, super-charged emo epic Everlong.
As if to further distance himself from his introspective indie roots, Grohl led the group through a playful Thin Lizzy tribute and sludgy versions of the Boys are Back in Town, the Rocker – Grohl’s favourite Lizzy tune – and Jailbreak. That was after a crotch-thrusting drum solo from Taylor Hawkins which swept the attendance back to the non-ironic heyday of stadium rock (ironically, the very monolith Nirvana had helped tear down).
The tanned, lanky Hawkins is as much a showman as Grohl. He had soon vacated his drum kit to stand front and centre for a cover of Queen’s Under Pressure, with assistance from Jon Davison of Yes (Hawkins’ best pal from back in the day).
Queen’s preening pomposity was an anathema to the punk scene that Grohl came up in. But Foo Fighters are entertainers rather than earnest seekers of rock ’n roll catharsis. At the RDS – and despite the rain – their sunny vibes were irresistible.