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Concert Review: Phoenix is a Foo-topia

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 17:10

Foo Fighters

Steve Gullick

The Foos are back, foo.

Dave Grohl did an unheard of thing at the Foo Fighters show Sunday night: he semi-seriously asked the crowd to "shut the fuck up." Apparently what was estimated to be 11,000 people were the loudest crowd on the entire tour thus far — a feat for Phoenix, which is notorious for mustering lousy audiences.

As one approached US Airways from any angle of Phoenix, it was hard to miss the FF fans making pilgrimage to the venue. This is deduced from the observation that male Foo Fighter fans wear their love on their upper lip. And handlebar mustaches a la Grohl abounded. (So much so that even Cage the Elephant's Matthew Shultz remarked on the crowd's shaving habits.)

Grohl was digging on the Valley's vibe so much he promised to play until they puked, so approximately 3 hours. And over 20 songs extended with countless jam-outs and just moments where Grohl stood nodding at the hysterical crowd. The show ended better than it started. That's only to say things just got better as they went along. It was the "Dave Grohl Show" through the first few songs, "Bridge Burning," "Rope," and "Pretender," during which he sprinted back and forth across the stage and down the catwalk, through the crowd and eventually to an elevated slice of stage near the back of the arena for all the folks with "shitty seats."

The band teased its first guitar solo in "Breakout" from the 1999 album of the same name, although Grohl was ADHD about it, playing a few erratic notes before running across the stage and sharing the wealth. It all seemed a little self-indulgent for a rock band, but there was something electrically irresistible about his unending energy and those acidic wails he generously evoked during the first half of the show. Highlights included drummer Taylor Hawkins taking on vocals for "Cold Day In The Sun" and the cover of Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh?" and the classic rock riff-off (heavily pulling from work by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page) between guitarist Chris Shiflett and Grohl.

Then there was "Monkey Wrench," in the middle of which the band went into a really smooth jam until Grohl requested the Center lights out and cell phones lit the arena like a planetarium. It was, as Grohl articulated, "fucking beautiful."

After the lights went down for the obligatory encore, the projection monitors lit up with Taylor and Dave's faces captured on a night vision recorder. Encouraging the audience to cheer to encores, the continued until the arena, deafening itself with nothing short of a roar, had stacked up six encores. The first two were acoustic versions of "Wheels" and "Best of You" with the lights fully thrown. Grohl chit-chatted and orchestrated the wave a few times by simply turning to take in a 360 of the audience. The encore also included a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Breakdown."

"I can honestly say, this was fucking awesome," Grohl said before descending the steps to backstage.

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Cage the Elephant:

Cage the Elephant was a freaking blast to watch. Vocalist Matthew Shultz's center of gravity seemed to be a force that kept him horizontally stooped, tugging on his Beat Urbana shirt as he stumble-sailed erratically across the stage and on to the edge of the catwalk, often acting like he was going to fall/jump into the crowd, which did happen three times…His blood-curling  yowls matched his intensely disoriented stage presence and the band sounded really sharp, despite having sit-in drummer "Cliff" for Jared Champion, whose appendix burst in Salt Lake City.

Shultz crowd-surfed out of the arena, climbing over seats (and audience members) by aisle immediately stage left. After he returned backstage, assumedly, he was retrieved from backstage to sign an LP a fan had brought to the barrier.

The band's setlist may have been influenced by having new chops behind the drum set, as they played mostly songs from 2009's eponymous debut. The night started with the familiar "In One Ear" and a great performance of "Judas," "Around My Head" and "Tiny Little Robots." Crowd favorites were "Back Against the Wall" and "Rest for the Wicked," during which Shultz invited the crowd to sing along, but the effort was met with that awkward emptiness one experiences while playing Rockband and the lyrics are moving too fast for them to keep up. The audience redeemed itself during "Shake Me Down," which they knew the words to. One of the few bands that performs from a visceral source these days, Cage the Elephant put on a hell of a show given the circumstances.

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Mariachi el Bronx:

The first opening band Mariachi el Bronx was entertaining. The acoustic guitar solo on opener "48 Roses" was gorgeous and seemed to get the crowd over the fact that it was a freaking eight-person mariachi band, albeit with modern twists, opening for a Foo Fighters show. The set was entertaining, even if the crowd needed prompting to express that.

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