Perhaps the Foo Fighters took too long to return to Singapore, and they realised it very quickly. It was a triumphant, and at times emotional, return for the American rock band, who mostly stuck to the classics on their second outing here. Having last played in Singapore in 1996 at the now-defunct WTC Harbour Pavilion, lead singer Dave Grohl was profusely apologetic about not returning sooner throughout the two-hour show which kicked off promptly at 8.05pm.
"The last time we had 12 songs, now we have a 100," he said, promising to play as many songs as they could, kicking off with I'll Stick Around from their eponymous, 1995 debut album.
The rockers, made up of drummer Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Pat Smear, guitarist Chris Shiflett and newest addition, keyboardist Rami Jaffee, proved why they are arguably the biggest rock band on the planet by quickly following up with a quick one-two punch of All My Life and Learn To Fly. Grohl referenced the 1996 show again acknowledging the considerably larger crowd size. Launching into Big Me - which is among the 22-year-old band's first few crossover pop songs - the crowd's singing along made Grohl visibly emotional. "You're gonna make me cry," he said as his voice cracked.
There was many a moment throughout the show where Grohl stood with arms akimbo and a smile on his face, letting the 25,000-strong crowd sing for him. It was clear that they had waited a long time for this. They were in full, emphatic voice on Best Of You, dutifully woah-oh-oh-ing long after the band stopped playing, and later on even as they trickled out of the stadium. It prompted him to blow kisses to the audience. The set largely stuck to recognisable hits from their eight-album catalogue, even though the band have a new album due out on September 15 called Concrete and Gold. The only new song the band dipped into was lead single Run, which is almost Led Zeppelin-esque in its rapturous thrashing.
But it did not seem to bother the Singapore crowd, who were more than happy to rock out to "vintage" Foos songs like The Pretender, Rope and Monkey Wrench. Tracks like Times Like These, with its slow acoustic introduction that built to a crescendo with the full band, was one of the many goosebump-inducing moments during the show.
The National Stadium, which has not quite been tested for a full-on heavy rock show, held up to the big sound on most counts, but the sound was muddy at times. But even with the serious rock music, there were plenty of lighthearted moments thanks to the ever-charming Grohl and company, whose banter and interaction with the crowd was easy and unaffected. They also had no qualms saluting their musical predecessors.
Grohl introduced the band members one by one, with each playing a snippet of a classic song - Shiflett with the riff from The Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive, Mendel with the bassline from Queen's Another One Bites The Dust, Smear with The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop and Hawkins, who Grohl introduced as "the love of my life", with Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure. The band, which was established in Seattle, even paid tribute to fellow Seattleite and the late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, with a picture of him on Hawkins' drumkit. Hawkins with his flailing blonde locks and enthusiastic drum fills got his time to shine on the track Cold Day in the Sun, as he took over vocals. But it was still very much the Dave Grohl show, his screaming register sounding even better live.
"We don't do encores, we just play till the show is over," he said before continuing to ride the nostalgia wave with Congregation, Walk, My Hero and These Days. True enough the band finished with the massive crowd-favourite Everlong and called it a night.
He also teased the audience with the prospect of returning to Singapore sooner. "Next time it won't be 20 years, because I'll be 68 then," he joked before and thanking the crowd for coming out to see "an old rock 'n' roll band - a dad band". But "dad band" or not, nine albums in, the Foos clearly still have it.
This article was first published at The Straits Times, 27 August 2017.