Foo Fighters Live Review: Dave Grohl’s men triumph at emotional return to London

A rejuvenated Foo Fighters bring the Everything Or Nothing At All Tour to the capital

Foo Fighters' London Stadium June 20 2024

by George Garner |
Updated on

Foo Fighters

London Stadium, London, June 20, 2024

“I’m gonna kick your ass tonight, ladies and gentleman,” warns Dave Grohl shortly after arriving onstage, as he surveys the immense London Stadium crowd gathered before him.

This moment was never guaranteed. The last time Foo Fighters played London, for the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in September 2022, it wasn’t entirely clear if fans were bearing witness to an ending or a new beginning. A double-helix set made up of mourning and celebration, that day the Foos were joined by Paul McCartney, Liam Gallagher, Chrissie Hynde, plus assorted members of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Metallica, AC/DC, Rush and more, to commemorate their late drummer. Flanked by his band at its close, Grohl left things open-ended. No time-scale for a return. Nor any promise of what form that might even take. “Let’s hear it for Taylor fucking Hawkins,” he said, bidding farewell. “We’ll see you around.”

What has transpired between that tearful goodbye and tonight’s “ass-kicking” registers as one of the most remarkable second acts in modern rock. Third, if you factor in Grohl’s own journey of self-determination after Nirvana. Charged by the dual-bereavement of both Hawkins and Grohl’s mother Virginia within six months of each other in 2022, Foo Fighters re-emerged with one of their very best records in last year’s But Here We Are. Its lyrics sharpened by grief, it was largely unconcerned with hitting the radio-ready melodic highs of the past. The looming question for touring it was whether Foos’ sets would now, inevitably, feel overridingly heavy where they once largely felt uplifting?

Tonight, they waste little time offering answers. The difference between 2022’s elegiac night in Wembley and this grandstanding London Stadium set could not be starker as they open with the build-and-release rush of All My Life and the crowd begins convulsing. Mere minutes into it, Grohl already looks like he’s played the entire three-hour set – his pearly whites occasionally glimpsed through the sweaty black hair stuck to his face. A few songs later, during The Pretender, he all but has to wrest vocal duties back from the crowd who have completely taken over. “Can I sing?” he asks. “Pretty, please?” It won’t be the first time. The Best Of You’s potent ‘woah-oh-oh’ hook is not only projected back to him en-masse during the song’s breakdown, it also becomes the official soundtrack of the queue for the tubes long after the night has finished.

For all this crowd-pleasing, what quickly comes into focus as the night progresses is that the Foos have perhaps not always been given the credit they deserve for refusing to play it safe live. Or at least as safe as they could. They dispatch a cavalcade of other hits – Monkey Wrench, My Hero, Big Me, Learn To Fly and Times Like These – and all make for reliably easy victories with a crowd aching to sing them. Yet it’s the manner in which this set double-shifts as a curiosities collection that elevates it. Or, as expressed in Grohlian: “We’ve got some deep cuts for you motherfuckers.”

There is a renewed focus on 1999’s There Is Nothing Left To Lose, notably the first Foos album Taylor Hawkins recorded on. Generator is a thrill, while Stacked Actors takes what is already the heaviest Foo Fighters track and cranks up the distortion with wild abandon. At the other end of the spectrum, but still taken from the same album, the plinking Aurora (which Grohl notes was Taylor Hawkins’ favourite Foos song) coming back into regular setlist rotation is a deft move.

While they are in fierce form, special mention should go to Josh Freese. Even granted his reputation as a session man extraordinaire, the task of becoming the Foos’ new drummer was still viewed by some to be a poisoned chalice. Taylor Hawkins was more than the sum of his parts – not only a blur of flailing limbs behind the kit, but also a charismatic, co-singing, shit-talking foil to Grohl. Freese deserves enormous credit for neither trying to overly impose himself nor shrinking, apologetically, behind his kit. He simply makes himself known with each gargantuan hit, particularly when pummeling his way through an extended drum solo in Breakout.

There are setlist casualties. Time is made for little snippets of Beastie Boys, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney, Nine Inch Nails, Devo, Led Zeppelin and more between or during songs, but nothing from 2014’s Sonic Highways. Equally, some stand-out singles are AWOL, as are some of their finest entries like Hey, Johnny Park! and Exhausted. This is partly because they are still very much committed to their present. On paper, say, No Son Of Mine, from 2021’s Medicine At Midnight, would not be as desired by fans as the absent Run or White Limo, but it’s good they take the risk. Not least because the track profits enormously from having its studio sheen royally scuffed up.

Of the newer material aired, however, it is the But Here We Are tracks that impress most. Rescued is dispatched early on to brilliant effect, with Nothing At All following later. Taylor Hawkins’ presence is felt acutely. No more so than when Grohl reworks his meditation on their friendship, Under You, as an acoustic gem. Here, the fragility of the beer-chugging, gum-chewing frontman is laid bare. Voice cracking, some lyrics missed or choked upon, the crowd often sings when he cannot. He has family on hand to help, too. Grohl invites his daughter Violet for a duet on Show Me How, while Hawkins’ son, Shane, gets behind the kit for a breakneck run through I’ll Stick Around from the band’s 1995 debut.

Nothing broadcasts their ambition quite like The Teacher. Written for Grohl’s late mother, it is not just Foo Fighters’ longest song but also their most progressive – mutating from its concussed intro to howling outro across the course of 10 minutes. It should not, in theory, work as the start of an encore in a stadium. It does.

What is also omitted from But Here We serves as a poignant reminder. That songs as affecting as Beyond Me and Rest still remain unaired live to date feels telling. Some tracks, it seems, may still be too raw to perform. The sing-alongs, the fireworks that shoot up into the sky during the closing strains of Everlong, they all serve to camouflage just how hard-won a victory this has been. ‘There’s no getting over it,’ Grohl sings at one point of the loss that led to this moment. So it may always prove. But tonight proves that somehow, against all odds, there is a still way through.

Set List:

All My Life

No Son of Mine


The Pretender


Times Like These

Stacked Actors


My Hero
The Sky Is a Neighbourhood

Learn to Fly


These Days

Skin and Bones

Big Me

Under You

Nothing at All

Monkey Wrench

Show Me How


Best Of You


The Teacher

I'll Stick Around


Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us