The first of two star-studded tribute shows for the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins took place on Saturday, September 3, with members of Queen, AC/DC, Metallica and more converging upon a packed Wembley Arena, in London.
There were many highlights. Just think of AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson performing “Back in Black” and “Let There Be Rock” alongside the Foo Fighters, with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on drums; it’s the sort of thing that would hitherto have been bar room talk, an idle ‘What if…’ conversation. Here, it actually happened, with Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett teaming up on one of the classic electric guitar riffs of all time.
Stuart Copeland of the Police joined Grohl and company to play “Next to You” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Liam Gallagher fronted the Foos for a couple of Oasis covers, and then there was Wolfgang Van Halen, Justin Hawkins, Dave Grohl, and Josh Freese jamming Van Halen’s “On Fire” and “Hot for Teacher.”
But for many, the poignant sight of Rush’s Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson onstage with Dave Grohl on drums, occupying the late Neil Peart’s stool and applying his big-hitting style to “2112 Part 1: Overture” and “Working Man” – captured in the fan-shot footage above – was the performance of the night.
At least, in the fantasy band stakes, it doesn’t get much better. Geddy Lee's voice was on point. Grohl's style might be altogether different to Peart's but there's something to be said for his power on a night like this – he gives the tracks a defiant, celebratory feel.
Rush and the Foo Fighters go way back. Hawkins, in particular, was a super-fan. Speaking to Louder (opens in new tab) about the influence of the Canadian trio’s 1980 album, Permanent Waves, Hawkins explained the appeal of a band whose prog sensibilities augmented radio friendly rock for a generation of fans like him.
“‘The Spirit of Radio’ really changed a lot of people’s perceptions of Rush,” Hawkins said. “It was a huge radio hit and I love that it’s unashamedly a great, great pop song. I absolutely still don’t get the intro at all, the time signature or how it’s counted. I’ve tried to understand it by slowing the tune down, but it’s just not within the parameters of the things I do.”
Just because Hawkins – and many others – could not understand the physics of how the song worked, did not affect its appeal. This, argued Hawkins, was the magic of Rush’s songwriting.
“How many bands can do something that fucked up and interesting and yet make it totally understandable to a non-musician?” he said. “Rush showed that they could fuck music up and still make great pop songs!”
In 2013, Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins inducted Rush into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That night, the Foos performed “2112 Part 1: Overture” – in costume no less.
The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert was livestreamed and broadcast across various platforms. You can watch it on demand on Paramount+, which offers a seven-day free trial.
A number of fan-shot videos on YouTube offers a flavor of the sort of action you’ll be in for, with Grohl’s two-song stint with Rush followed by David Bowie drummer Omar Hakim taking over for “YYZ”, which you can watch in the video above.
It was that sort of night. A night when Queen, the Pretenders, James Gang and Them Crooked Vultures assembled to pay tribute to a fallen peer, raise money for charity, and remind everyone of the power of rock ’n’ roll to put on such super-sized pop-cultural events as this.
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