For the sake of the kid, and maybe to revive his sleepy seatmate too, the 49-year-old Dave Grohl felt compelled to carbon-date "This Is a Call" by screaming "old school!" between chords. It was the lead track and single off the Foo Fighters' 1995 debut and the first song he ever recorded under that moniker. The majority of the band's nearly three-hour performance on Saturday was dedicated to such vintage hits, counterbalanced with comedy bits, guest spots, gratuitous solos, and what can be best described as an extended karaoke segment.
More than two decades deep, the standard bearers of that post-grunge, loud-quiet-loud American rock sound are still hellbent on delivering a capital-R, capital-S Rock Show — flashy, noisy, nostalgic and severely concerned with ticket buyers getting their money's worth, no matter what they paid.
Grohl and Co. eased the capacity crowd into the evening with a mix of bona fide hits ("The Pretender," from 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace) and newer tracks, such as "The Sky Is a Neighborhood," for which Grohl brought out his daughter Violet to sing backup.
"I think we should play something from every … record we've ever made tonight. Are you cool with that?" Grohl asked rhetorically, cupping his hand to his ear like Hulk Hogan. It was one of a number of jubilant lead singer bon mots only a frontman of his seasoning can use without sounding ridiculous. ("Every night is Saturday night in my world!" … "I'm living my rock 'n' roll fantasy!")
Posturing aside, the Foos — Grohl and Hawkins, Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Chris Shiflett and keyboardist Rami Jaffe — also built time into the set to remind us not to take them seriously. After checking off "My Hero," "These Days" and "Walk," each bandmate got his chance to mess around. Shiflett took a dead-on swing at Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels," while Mendel teased "Another One Bites the Dust." The joyous Smear, whom you'd never know is pushing 60, hopped onto an amp for a quick "Blitzkrieg Bop."
Jaffe then began playing the somber opening notes of John Lennon's "Imagine," while Grohl rattled off some stale platitudes about love, peace and unity. It seemed phony, out of character for the usually self-aware collective. Then Grohl replaced Lennon's words with the lyrics to Van Halen's "Jump," delighting audience members who got the joke and severely flummoxing those who didn't. Luke Spiller, from opening act the Struts, dueted "Under Pressure" with Hawkins to conclude the crowd-pleasing cover portion of the evening.
If Saturday's "Monkey Wrench" proved Grohl could still scream like a Seattle banshee, the production around "Breakout" showed that this workmanly touring act is adapting well to modern concert habits. Grohl darkened the house and asked people to raise their lit-up phones (there were a few OG lighter holdouts), brightening the Pavilion way more than you'd think. When they flipped the switch back for the 1999 single, the stage lights were lowered to pin the band in, creating the closest approximation to a garage show one can deliver in a Live Nation amphitheater.
Ticking off new, relatively unknown songs ("Dirty Water") as well as beloved ones ("Best of You") en route to a three-song encore that culminated with a dramatic "Everlong," it certainly seemed as if the full Foo Fighters experience — satisfying, even if you didn't know you needed it.