The Santa Barbara Bowl was treated to an incredible performance by the Foo Fighters on Thursday, Sept. 28, in an evening full of jokes, hometown pride and reflection. Rock and roll icons with almost three decades of activity, the band made playing through a discography of 28 years and 11 albums look easy.
The concert was a surprise addition to an already extensive tour. Announced on Sept. 12 alongside an additional concert in Houston, Texas, it gave fans two weeks to prepare. Despite this brief time span, anticipation was high as Foo Fighter fanatics gathered at the Bowl’s entrance, eager to get the best possible spots in the venue’s standing room section. By the time the Foo Fighters took to the stage, the floor was filled to the brim with hundreds of fans.
The show was opened by Los Angeles based trio Julie, whose unique fusion of sounds provided an excellent introduction to a highly anticipated night. Julie is described as a “shoe-gaze grunge band” — two genres that initially seem difficult to combine. However, from the second the trio hit the stage it was clear that the up-and-comers have created an intriguing and electrifying blend. The band’s sound was perfectly accompanied by visuals of computer start ups and the Windows home screen that grew more glitchy as the show went on, much like the band’s instrumentals. Julie’s sound can be best described as hard hitting and distorted, with softer sounding vocals from vocalists Alex Brady and Keyan Sand. Drummer Dillion Lee showed no mercy to his drum set and performed an incredible showcase of skill and strength. Julie’s brief introductory performance shows that they have massive potential, and the sheer power of their sound makes them a worthy opening act for one of the country’s most beloved rock bands.
As the sun set across the Bowl, it was time for the rock legends to take the stage. Armed with his signature blue Gibson guitar, frontman and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of fame inductee Dave Grohl immediately acknowledged the band’s absence from the city by proclaiming, “I don’t think we’ve been here in like f***ing fifteen years!”
Thursday’s performance was a significant night for the band — not only was it their first performance at the Bowl since an acoustic set in 2006 (making it seventeen years since the band’s last Santa Barbara appearance) — it also served as a hometown show for Santa Barbara’s own lead guitarist, Chris Shifflet. During the band’s staple introductions, the audience was treated to not one, but two solos from Shifflet to celebrate his return to his hometown, each received with thunderous applause. “I don’t need to introduce him, because half of the f***ing audience is his family,” joked Grohl.
The Santa Barbara Bowl’s small size and intimate construction is quite different from the shows that Foo Fighters are used to. The limited capacity provided not only a unique and more personal experience for the fans, but for the band as well. Grohl even speculated about having a potential future residency at the Bowl.
“It’s nice to be back, because it’s been a while … if it were up to me we would play all f***ng night. But in order for us to do every Foo Fighters song, we’d have to play here every night for like a month,” he explained. Upon hearing cheers from the crowd, Grohl continued by proclaiming, “Yeah, f*** Vegas. We’ll do a residency here, why not?” Grohl’s statement was accompanied by further applause and enthusiasm from Shifflet.
The night was full of quips and stories from the legendary frontman — Grohl is well known for getting away with consistently referring to his fans as “motherf*****s” and receiving a response of pure elation. At one point in the show, he even commented on the audience’s noise level and jested about the crowd’s use of marijuana. “I don’t want to wake up the whole f***ing neighborhood,” he joked. With a crowd spanning generations and a setlist stretched across 28 years, The Bowl remained fixated on every word, both sung and spoken.
The band kicked off their two hour performance with “All My Life”, an energetic song that perfectly captures the band’s work ethic and compliments the title of the band’s latest release, “But Here We Are”, excellently. The Foos then launched into two of their classic songs, 2007’s “The Pretender” and 1999’s “Learn to Fly”. The introductory trio of Foo Fighters staples impassioned the audience and kept them engaged throughout the performance.
Shifflet, alongside Grohl and rhythm guitarist Pat Smear kept the show going at an electrifying pace, smashing through a catalog consisting of nine different albums, including “But Here We Are”. The band performed four songs from their 2023 release, but perhaps the most impactful was the performance of “The Teacher”, a ten minute long journey through grief and acceptance. Named for Grohl’s mother, school teacher Virginia Grohl, the band guided its audience through the journey of losing a parent and having to come to terms with that loss. The performance’s wavered between moments of solemn silence and loud, impassioned rock. It was a perfect example of the two things that the Foo Fighters do best, the sound of classic rock and the capturing of pure, raw, unfiltered emotion.
Alongside the band’s rendition of “The Teacher”, the highlight of the night came when the band acknowledged the passing of previous drummer Taylor Hawkins. The artist’s presence was felt throughout the night — fans wearing Taylor Hawkins t-shirts were spread throughout the Bowl and the loudest moment of the night occurred during a speech from Dave Grohl before the band played “Aurora”, from 1999’s “There Is Nothing Left to Lose”.
“This was Taylor Hawkins’ favorite song. This is the first song that we actually wrote together,” Grohl explained as the band played the opening notes. “If only you could hear us backstage. All we do all day long is talk about that dude … This one’s for T.”
In the recorded edition of “Aurora”, Grohl’s vocals fade out as he allows the band to take over and finish out the track. However, in Thursday night’s edition, Grohl let out a cathartic scream as the band powered towards the end of the track — hammering on his Gibson in a stunning display of pure, unfiltered emotion.
The night concluded with a performance of the Foo Fighters most famed and streamed track, “Everlong”. Creating a moment that felt both good and real, it was the perfect track to tie together a long list of songs and had the entire audience on their feet. After a deafening round of applause, Grohl thanked the audience for a beautiful night and again referenced a series of future shows.
“Maybe that residency idea is not so bad”, Grohl said with a smile on his face.
This appeared in the October 5th Daily Nexus printed edition.