Late Wednesday afternoon, a convoy of men on motorbikes headed up the driveway of the One&Only Hotel. One had a beard. For a split second I gloried in the idea that it might be Dave Grohl, then rolled my eyes at the thought of one the biggest legends in rock music casually riding around Cape Town hours before his first ever South African show. As if. But just in case… a quick browse of social media told me that it was indeed Grohl, and excitement hit me like a ten ton truck: I was seeing the Foo Fighters.
There have always been four celebrities I would love to meet: Brandon Flowers, Chris Martin, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. And I’d almost achieved the first three, having stood metres from Martin, and grasped hands with Springsteen and Flowers during concerts. Closest I’d ever been to Mr Grohl? About 50 metres from the stage, separated from My Hero by a few thousand rowdy British youths at 2012’s Reading Festival, an hour outside London. To me Grohl had been unattainable. Some kind of supreme being, who – despite being lauded as the nicest guy in rock and roll – just didn’t seem to really exist. Imagine my surprise when Big Concerts said I could meet him after winning a competition. Oh, that WOULD be nice.
And so somehow I found myself first in a line of about 40 people, separated from the Foos by only a thin black curtain. Cue mild hyperventilation – what if I see Dave Grohl and just die? Right there on the floor die?
But instead I experienced the surreal senations of watching the black curtain draw back to reveal the Foo Fighters in all their glory, Dave Grohl grinning broadly at me, sticking out his hand and saying “Hi, I’m Dave, and these are the Foo Fighters.” Thanks for telling me your name, Dave!
The only down side of having met Dave Grohl an hour before the show? It meant missing the first half of support act, Kaiser Chiefs’ show – a pity because frontman Ricky Wilson is known for his incredibly energetic performances, and is guaranteed to entertain. After making it into the crowd as the band began ‘Never Miss a Beat’, I could see Wilson barrelling down the T-shaped stage like a cannonball, before climbing some scaffolding during ‘The Angry Mob’. The Kaiser Chiefs ended off with their standard, ‘Oh My God’, which must have rung true for them – “Oh my god, I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home…” and though they had played in SA before, Cape Town Stadium must have been a whole new experience.
At exactly 9pm – right on time – the main act appeared like visions. Shiflett, Smear and Mendel smartly dressed and semi-formal, Hawkins looking like he’d just rolled off Camps Bay beach, and Grohl himself grinning that same toothy grin that characterised the 20-year-younger version of himself in his Nirvana days. Let it be said though, the smile is the only thing still reminiscent of the weedy Nirvana drummer – Grohl has aged like a fine wine.
The band wasted no time, launching straight into ‘All My Life’, then ‘Rope’, with barely a breath in between. Still with that manic grin, Grohl roared up and down the stage, like some kind of inhuman being, that is, perhaps, too talented to be real. Too much of an idea. Too far removed. But I’ve met him, and I know he’s real.
The hits came thick and fast, with arguably their most well-known song, ‘The Pretender’ going down a storm amongst the crowd, as did ‘My Hero’. Just when we began to wonder when we might get a taste of the band’s new material, ‘Congregation’ started. Inspired by the Nashville’s country roots, and with subtly religious undertones, it has to be one of the greatest Foo Fighters songs ever. Other new songs were ‘Something From Nothing’, which has recently soared up the local charts, ‘Outside’ and ‘In The Clear’. At one point, the young man next to me tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Do you know the lyrics to all the songs?” “Pretty much” I replied, although I wanted to say “What, don’t you?!”
And if you were wondering if Grohl lived up to his reputation as the ‘nicest guy in rock and roll’ – he sure did. Having met Springbok Nude Girls’ Theo Crous the day before, Dave invited the local musician onto the stage to perform Cheap Trick’s ‘Stiff Competition’, with Grohl taking to the drums, and drummer Taylor Hawkins taking over vocals.
Dave Grohl’s stage presence is absolutely astounding. He thrives on being on stage and the passion of all five bands members is evident throughout the set. “We’re simple guys, we don’t do all this firework and confetti sh*t, we just play rock and roll!” And somehow, this simple rock and roll has an almost universal appeal – from the older couple we met outside the gates (“Bucket list stuff!” the lady had said, high-fiving me) to the group of teens behind us (“We’ve been queueing for two hours!”), everyone loves the Foo Fighters.
25 songs later, Grohl and company were finally ready to leave the stage. They ended with the absolutely spectacular ‘Everlong’, evoking emotion in every single crowd member. “We’ve got a long night ahead of us – we’re not nearly done!” they had repeated throughout the set, much to the delight of the golden circle ticket holders who most definitely got their R 960 worth.
But the three-hour-long set took its toll on an audience clearly not accustomed to such long performances. The young lady next to me – who began the show headbanging so violently that I was concerned she might give herself a concussion – was found to be using her sister’s shoulder as a pillow before 11pm, and the bro next to her had sat himself firmly on the ground, back against the barrier, where he stayed until ‘This Is A Call’ gave him something of a second wind.
Yes, it was a long set, and the feet of the best of us were left protesting feebly by midnight. But was it too long? Would I have traded it for the world? No, of course not. If it were up to me – and the band, if their enthusiasm was anything to go by – the Foo Fighters would still be on that stage, playing their hearts out. In fact, I’m trying very hard to restrain myself from sneaking up to Jo’burg for Saturday’s show. Gauteng sure is in for a treat.
The Foo Fighters performed at the Cape Town Stadium on 10 December 2014.