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 Foo Fighters rock SXSW fest

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PostSubject: Foo Fighters rock SXSW fest   Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:15 pm

AUSTIN, TEXAS - Dave Grohl didn't have to worry about wasting light. But the Foo Fighters frontman was definitely concerned about not wasting time during his band's secret South by Southwest gig.

"This wasn't supposed to be a Foo Fighters show," Grohl explained to a couple of thousand lucky fans who got into the unofficial Tuesday night set at Stubb's BBQ and amphitheatre. "We hijacked someone else's gig. So we don't have all the time in the world."

Maybe not. But they did have the hottest ticket in town. Although there are a more than 1,000 bands in the central Texas town this week for the annual music-business conference and festival, the Foos' appearance -- coinciding with the premiere of their entertaining (if a tad informercialish) documentary Back and Forth -- has dominated headlines and set the rumour mill a-churn. Would they play a secret show? Where would it be? When? Who would be there? One popular theory -- which was possible if not especially practical -- was that the band might play in the movie theatre following the screening. But in the end, the big surprise was really no surprise: The giant outdoor venue Stubb's was the only logical, proven site. Both Metallica and Beastie Boys have also staged secret shows there at previous festivals.

And while the Foos didn't have the evening to themselves (they were actually the opening act on the bill), they made the most of the time they had. Singer-guitarist Grohl and his bandmates blazed through a no-holds-barred show, cramming their 100-minute set with 21 songs -- including their forthcoming album Wasting Light in its entirety.

"We're just gonna play a few things," the former Nirvana drummer casually announced as the group took the stage shortly after 9 p.m. "You wanna hear the whole album? Let's do the whole album."

And so they did, kicking off with the rousing opener Bridge Burning -- featuring the magnificent first line "these are my famous last words" -- and working their way through to the slashing rocker Walk. You can check out the six jillion YouTube videos of the gig (or their handful of previous preview shows around L.A.) for yourself. But for my money, the highlights were the proggy Rope (which is basically the best Rush song Rush never wrote); the driving punk nugget White Limo; the Latin-tinged Dear Rosemary; the dynamically grungy Arlandria; the walloping Miss the Misery and the cathartic power ballad I Should Have Known (which could be about an ex or You-Know-Who or nobody in particular).

For the first half of their set, the quintet were all business. There was zero chit-chat between numbers; instead they just went bang-bang-bang through Wasting Light, slamming from one song right into the next. Guitarists Chris Shiflett (the technician) and Pat Smear (the noisemaker) flanked Grohl both literally and musically; bassist Nate Mendel was unobtrusive but solid; and drummer Taylor Hawkins was his usual whirlish dervish behind the kit -- and sported a grin you couldn't have smacked off his face with a shovel.

Fun it may have been, but the effort clearly showed; within three songs, Grohl's hair was matted to his face. Half a dozen numbers later and despite a cool breeze in the evening air, his red shirt was darkened with sweat and stuck to his torso like a bloody rag. That's no mystery; between the headbanging and the screaming -- by the end of the set, he was clearly hoarse -- the man was definitely leaving it all up there on the stage.

Even with Wasting Light out of the way, he still had a long way to go. Moments after the final chord of Walk, Grohl announced: "And that's the new record!" And then quickly followed up with: "And this isn't," as he began to chug the unmistakable low-neck riff to All My Life. That jumpstarted the second half of the set: 11 "massive hits" (to quote the guy who wrote them) from the 15-year-old band's lengthy back catalog.

For this half, Grohl was more relaxed and playful. During All My Life, he spurred the crowd to sing along by exhorting, "Come on you industry motherf---ers!" During My Hero, he took another tack: "You clearly need to do more shots." After nearly every other song, he messed with the worshipful crowd's expectations. "Do you want one more? Two more? Five more? Don't be f---ing greedy!" he asked at one point. "You guys done yet?" he tried later. "No? But there are so many other hot new acts to go see tonight."

Not for these fans. They clearly had just one name on their to-do list. And no wonder. With the music portion of SXSW barely underway, Foo Fighters have already set the mark to beat this year.

Of course, it might not last too long: The band is also slated to perform at the MTVu Woodie Awards, being broadcast live from another local club on Wednesday night. That's the second-hottest ticket in town this week. And it just so happens the awards are being held across the street from the bar where Grohl's Them Crooked Vultures bandmate Josh Homme is gigging with Queens of the Stone Age (for whom Grohl has also drummed).

Let the rumours begin.

Set List:

Bridge Burning

Rope

Dear Rosemary

White Limo

Arlandria

These Days

Back & Forth

A Matter of Time

Miss the Misery

I Should Have Known

Walk

All My Life

Times Like These

My Hero

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

Stacked Actors

Monkeywrench

Everlong

Best of You

This is a Call
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