When a band has not been to South Africa for their entire 20 year career, especially when they are the Foo Fighters, you can only expect the concert to be one of the greatest evenings of your life. As I sit and write this, I am still recovering from just over six hours on my feet and a beautiful three hour set from the kings of plain and simple rock ‘n roll. A typical set from an international band at the Cape Town Stadium would last an hour and half, possibly two hours, due to the various noise regulations. Somehow, Foo Fighters got away with doing 20 years of catching up by playing a full three hour set filled with the classics, some new songs and even a handful of covers. Before I get to Foo Fighters, I must make mention of the two opening acts.
It was a unique situation as the opening acts consisted of a South African band and an international band rather than the usual one local band before the headliner takes to the stage. The first band up on stage was Blk Jks, who sadly played to a very sparse crowd as, once again, Cape Town showed their true colours by not really caring about the opening band. That being said, those who were not there did not miss much. Blk Jks may have been hand-picked by Dave Grohl to open for Foo Fighters, but it is quite possible that Grohl made the wrong choice. Blk Jks delivered their brand of Afro-soul reggae-infused alternative rock to a very disinterested crowd who only paid attention when Francois Van Coke and Wynand Myburgh, of legendary South African rock band Fokofpolisiekar, joined them on stage. They were shortly followed by Arno Carstens, lead singer of Springbok Nude Girls, who once again piqued the crowd’s attention. However, the rest of the time Blk Jks fell very short of the mark and the spot could have been filled by a much more capable and relevant band.
Shortly after Blk Jks finished their set, the crowd swelled slightly as we waited in anticipation for the arrival of Kaiser Chiefs – an ironically named band as South Africa has a domestic soccer team by the same name. It was with this swell in the crowd that a few rather unpleasant individuals decided to encroach on the space that my friends and I, as well as the people we had bonded with, had claimed for ourselves. It was a prime spot against the railing of the General Standing area as we were not rich enough to afford Golden Circle but still utterly adored Foo Fighters. It is general concert etiquette that if you’re closing in on being two meters in height, you don’t wear a hat and don’t complain when people ask you to move. If it wasn’t for the swift arrival of Kaiser Chiefs then there may quite have possibly been an angry mob. Another fatal case of irony as when “Angry Mob” was performed, tensions were fraying among various individuals in the crowd around me due to the aforementioned incident. Luckily, Kasier Chiefs tamed the prevailing tension with their slick and upbeat rock ‘n roll antics. Their set was jammed pack full of high energy classics like “Ruby”, “I Predict A Riot”, and “Na Na Na Na Naa”. These songs were complete with lead singer Ricky Wilson jumping off of speakers and tossing mic stands into the air. It was clear that Kaiser Chiefs’ job was to get the crowd riled up for Foo Fighters, and they did an incredibly brilliant job of it. The energy was buzzing as the stadium finally began to fill up, and then it was time.
The moment the lights went down, the crowd roared into life as 50, 000 people realized that they were about to see one of the greatest rock bands in the world live. And what a show it was. There was no holding back for the band as they opened with “All My Life” and quickly launched into what turned out to be, as Grohl said, “a long fucking night”. The band’s set was tighter than a nun’s drawers, and was rock ‘n roll done good and proper, without any fancy strings attached. The band wowed the crowd with their ability to take four minute songs and extened them into lengthy pieces simply by adding longer instrumental sections or repeating choruses, or as we liked to call it: “dick-teasing” us. There were moments where everyone knew which lyric was coming next and exactly how amazing the part was going to be, like in “My Hero” and “Arlandria”, but Grohl and the rest of the band would tease the crowd with guitar riffs or epic drum sections from Taylor Hawkins. This made that one lyric or chorus even better, as they had been building up to it for a minute, and just allowed the crowd to let rip with screaming it at the top of their lungs. Grohl confidently bellowed out gut-wrenching lyrics and issued tortured screams that we never thought he could actually pull off live. “Monkey Wrench” sucker-punched us all and then they launched into the driving delivery of “White Limo” as small mosh-pits formed among the hardcore fans who bothered to put Foo Fighters on repeat a week in advance. There were no bruises for me as I was the veteran of mosh-pits out of the bundle I was in. The mood was tempered with “Learn To Fly”, bringing on the flight on the famous condom balloons. Watching Grohl strut his stuff on stage made me think one thing: “This band is brilliant”.
The stage presence of the band is phenomenal. Each member owns the stage in their own special way, with Grohl being the most forward of them all, as he raced around stage and interacted with the crowd. He seemed genuinely surprised by the crowd’s reaction to the band, and was even more shocked whenever the crowd would drown his voice out – partially because the acoustics of the venue were sub-par. Nevertheless, the band was a living testament to their reputation for being amazing live. Even their newer songs were absolutely brilliant live, especially “Something From Nothing”, with the opening of the song lulling the crowd into a false stage of being relaxed before kicking in with the massive alt rock section.
Possibly one of the biggest surprises (well, one of four surprises) was the introduction of Theo Crous of K.O.B.U.S. and Springbok Nude Girls, to play with the band on stage during a cover of Rolling Stones’s “Miss You” (Blink-182 fans to the right of me got excited when Grohl mentioned “Miss You”. Sorry kids, tonight wasn’t the night for pop punk). A second surprise came in the form of the band whipping out an accordion, and mucking about with that. You think that was good? The next surprise was some role reversal. Grohl took the drums and Hawkins took to the stage to deliver a brilliant cover of Cheap Tricks’ “Stiff Competition”. We came for a rock show and got some good and proper hardcore punk. Money well spent. The final surprise was a cover of “Under Pressure”, as if we hadn’t been losing our shit to all the preceding songs. They followed that up with a cover of “Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Foo Fighters had saved some of their best songs for last with “These Days” and “Best of You” sitting on the rear end of the set-list. The crowd roared to life with the opening chords of “These Days” and then the off-tune singing began. It was at that point that every soul there was connected in a weird spiritual sense (or that may have been the second-hand weed smoke that I had inhaled speaking), a connection cemented by Grohl’s voice bellowing out the lyrics of “I’ve got another confession to make” – cue the emotionally-charged tears as my group took each other by the shoulders and screamed our lungs out. This led into “Everlong” and we raised our arms for one final salute to these legends as they signed off with “See you next time.” The lights went up and the crowd dispersed in high spirits, having left all their worries on the floor of the venue – even it was in the form of the vast amount of beer consumed and the nicotine addictions that had been fulfilled. It was a long walk back to the car, but the walk was spent chatting with my friends and random strangers alike about what we had just witnessed. We were a part of history, and part of memories that will last a life time. There go our heroes, watch them as they go