SAN JOSE — With thousands of mostly young music fans lining up for hours to see a K-Pop boy band in Oakland on Tuesday, it was fair to wonder (yet again) what that meant for rock and roll bands. The Foo Fighters didn’t sell out the SAP Center, but Dave Grohl and co. didn’t treat the show any different. If anything, he played up the image of minivan-driving soccer dads.
The consummate professionals didn’t try to compete with the high theatrics of pop music, either. Performing without any noticeable bells and whistles other than a hydraulic base that lifted drummer Taylor Hawkins 15 feet up at one point to sing lead, the Foo Fighters delivered a strong meat-and-potatoes rock set heavy on extended jam sessions and solos.
The 23-song, two-hour set kicked off with a bang as the band kicked into its rock staples of “All My Life,” “Learn to Fly” an “The Pretender.”
“You know it’s going to be a long night, right?” Grohl growled.
The night did indeed seem longer because many of the songs featured extended jam sessions and breakdowns that started taking a toll later in the evening. “The Pretender,” for example, went on for about 10 minutes, including false stops and starts. The slow, Southern rock breakdown on this song was less Seattle grunge and more Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was all good fun, but as more and more songs had this element and it became the rule rather than the exception, it would eventually become more tedious.
On “Sunday Rain,” Hawkins showed off his vocal chops, and his own soloing ability, high in the air on his raised platform
Of the several covers Foo Fighters performed, the most interesting was a mash-up of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Van Halen’s “Jump.” Blending the melody of the former and the lyrics of the latter gave the tune an ominous glow. Hawkins played Freddie Mercury, doing the late star’s famous “Ey-Ohs!” on an intro to “Under Pressure.” And a cover of “Blitzkrieg Pop” blew by in less than two minutes. Yes, that’s about the actual runtime of the song, but on a night when the average song length was six minutes, it was still startling.
Grohl didn’t spend too much time conversing with the audience, but when he did, it was undoubtedly to tell a potty-mouthed dad joke.
“How many of you are old-school Foo Fighters fans?” he asked ahead of “My Hero.” “I’m an old-school fan. … I got the Honda Odyssey. Thats’ the shit.”
Following the covers section, Foo Fighters began picking up the pace with more hits like “Best of You” and “Monkey Wrench,” before closing with “Times Like These” and “Everlong.”
Welch rock trio The Joy Formidable opened the show with a seven-song, 30-minute set of mostly older material. The group has a new record, AARTH, coming this month, but played only one new track, “The Wrong Side.” Frontwoman-guitarist Ritzy Bryan described it as being about overcoming divisions.
“We can all have differences of opinion, but it’s good to talk through them,” she said.
The rest of the band’s set included “This Ladder is Ours,” from 2013’s Wolf’s Law, as well as staples “Cradle,” “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade” and “Whirring,” off its 2011 break-out album, The Big Roar.
Despite having toured through the Bay Area countless times, Bryan noted it was The Joy Formidable’s first time in San Jose.
“We certainly haven’t played here [the SAP Center],” she said. “We would have remembered that!”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.