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Report, Setlist: Foo Fighters begin their Australian tour in Brisbane

foo fighters brisbane

“TONIGHT is the 20th anniversary of the first time Foo Fighters ever played an Australian club gig,” announced Dave Grohl, part-way into his band’s memorable first stop on their Sonic Highways tour – their first show Down Under in four years. “I’d like to thank you all personally for sticking around with us for the last 20 years and for coming out tonight.”

The tens of thousands of fans who turned up at Suncorp Stadium needed no encouragement from anyone to get into the spirit of the gig, and Grohl and co. more than delivered in return, playing two and a half hours of material spanning their entire career, peppered with an appropriate amount of F-bombs, audience banter and classic rock covers.

A subdued open with ‘Something From Nothing’ and ‘The Pretender’ allowed the band to warm up, with notable grins visible on the faces of Grohl and guitarist Pat Smear, before ‘Learn to Fly’ upped the ante and work rate. “We’re going to play until they fucking kick us off the stage,” announced Grohl, which wasn’t strictly true in the end, but it was exactly what the audience wanted to hear. The 46 year-old frontman couldn’t supress a satisfied giggle during the mass sing-along in ‘Breakout’, before he dedicated ‘My Hero’ to “all the old Foo Fighters fans” and then took a second to talk to the crowd about the band’s last visit to these parts.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a young Foo Fighters band that used to come over and play this really fucking fun show called the Big Day Out,” he recalled. “One time my friend Taylor Hawkins and I thought we would peruse the city of the Gold Coast on our scooters with fucking motorised pedals. On the way back there was a traffic jam. We saw some checkpoint and thought, how bad can it be? Well, ladies and gentlemen, they threw my ass in jail that night. But I learned a lesson: even when you’re think you’re okay on your moped with fucking motorised pedals, they’re going to get you. So when you come back you have to tick that box; you have to explain you were drunk on a vehicle with fucking motorised pedals and that’s why you’re a convicted felon. So tonight, I’m going to dedicate this next song to the hardworking police force of the Gold Coast for teaching me a lesson: don’t spend more on your suit than your fine in court.”

Cue early track ‘Big Me’. The middle section of the set saw the band decamp to the extended part of the stage, where they proceeded to make the year of one particular uber-fan. After covers of The Faces’ ‘Stay With Me’ and AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’, and despite Hawkins’ best efforts to kick the band into Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’, Grohl halts proceedings, points to one sign-bearing audience member and announces the next song – ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush – as being for “the guy with the braces who made the sign on his computer”, before adding “even though nobody likes that fucking song”.

Building to a climax with ‘All My Life’, ‘These Days’ and the enduring ‘This is a Call’, the band seemed genuinely grateful for the love Brisbane showed them tonight, and with the final words “We don’t ever say goodbye, we say this…” before striking the first chords of ‘Everlong’, Grohl sent the majority of the audience into a beer-throwing frenzy.

Setlist

Something from Nothing
The Pretender
Learn to Fly
Breakout
My Hero
Big Me
Congregation
Walk
Cold Day in the Sun
In The Clear
Arlandria
Monkey Wrench
Skin and Bones
Wheels
Times Like These
Stay With Me (The Faces cover)
Let There Be Rock (AC/DC cover)
Tom Sawyer (Rush cover)
Under Pressure (Queen + David Bowie cover)
All My Life
Outside
These Days
Generator
This Is A Call
Everlong

Foo Fighters Tour Dates:

Feb 26, 2015 ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Feb 28, 2015 Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Mar 02, 2015 Derwent Entertainment Centre, Tasmania
Mar 04, 2015 Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Mar 08, 2015 nib Stadium, Perth

For FasterLouder

Record review: Foxygen – …And Star Power (2014, LP)

foxygen ...and star power

Before having even heard of note of Foxygen’s third album you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d lost the plot. Twenty-four songs spread over a double LP seems like the sort of rock music folly that ’70s punk killed off for good, but the Californian duo of Jonathan Rado and Sam France are seemingly undeterred. They even go as far as labelling their opening track ‘Star Power Airlines’ in a nod to a time when rock stars flew in planes with their band logo painted on the fuselage.

Thankfully, the expected musical flatulence doesn’t appear, although it’s barely kept at bay in parts. Second track and lead single ‘How Can You Really’ goes a long way towards bursting that particular bubble; it’s Big Star-esque aesthetic soothes and radiates warmth, before the piano balladry of ‘Coulda Been My Love’ shows that the duo have lost none of their song-writing talents during the crazy times they’ve experienced since the release of 2012’s We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. Indeed, it could be suggested that the alleged infighting, shambolic live performances and so-called exhaustion have made …And Star Power what it is. Much like their heroes The Rolling Stones’ 1978 classic ‘Beast of Burden’, Foxygen have their own bruised-and-battered anthem with ‘You And I’, on which France is found asking “Why doesn’t anybody help me? Why doesn’t anybody care?” amid tales of broken bodies and divided relationships.

The next four tracks, labelled the ‘Star Power Suite’ are a fairly ridiculous few minutes that start off sounding like a medley of ’70s theme tunes in the vein of The Fall Guy or Smokey and the Bandit, before ‘Mattress Warehouse’ picks things up again; its organ-driven base allowing France to mumble and stumble through his vocals in the elegantly wasted manner he has made his own. The driving whimsy of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ provides an album highlight shortly after, ‘Cold Winter Freedom’ throws some heavily-distorted synths into the mix to make it the heaviest track here, and ‘Freedom II’ is about as Rolling Stones as any band is going to get without snorting their dead father’s ashes.

By the last quarter, the gloves are well and truly off and nothing is left in the tank. The flailing fury of ‘Talk’ gives way to the cheese-balladry of ‘Everyone Needs Love’ and its calls to “shine on”, before closer ‘Hang’ closes proceedings on a miserable and dragging note.

At 82 minutes, boundaries of length and self-indulgence aren’t quite reached and beached, but there’s a lingering feeling that at least four or five of these tracks could have been left out or set aside for the special edition and no loss of quality would have resulted. At times out of focus, at times incoherent, but always engaging …And Star Power is more like three or four albums disguised as one. However, for all their retro leanings and sometimes misguided ideas, Rado and France remain top-drawer songwriters, and it’s that fact that make this album worth a spin or two.

For FasterLouder

Record review: Mere Women – Your Town (2014, LP)

mere women your town

DIY post-punk trio Mere Women recorded their second album in a cold-storage warehouse, and if ever a record’s surroundings affected the final sound, it’s here.

All hauntingly-focussed vocals, stabbing guitars and dark disdain, Your Town is the type of brutally abrasive collection of songs that would never make sense played in daylight or with anything on your mind except thoughts of anger, helplessness and schadenfreude.

The Sydney trio of keyboardist/singer Amy Wilson, drummer Katrina Byrne and guitarist Flyn Mckinnirey have been knocking around since 2011, and their 2012 debut Old Life earned them acclaim as an underground act worth keeping an eye on. Since then they have honed in on a more cohesive sound that perfectly captures the crushing, claustrophobic feeling of small-town-anywhere in all its depressing glory.

If the title track were a person, it’d be one of those pent-up, vaguely unhinged people you meet on public transport who fill you with equal amounts of intrigue and dread. Single ‘Our Street’ is the musical manifestation of suburban solitude, as Wilson asks “will you still want me when I’m old and frail?” and “will you think of me when I’m cold and pale?” with a jagged pop melody, as Mckinnirey’s relentless riffs flail and stab.

Waiting for the gloom to ease off over ten songs is a long and exhausting process, but by the time closer ‘Moon Creeper’ tries to lull you into a false sense of security with a soft opening 30 seconds, you know it isn’t going to happen, and another Mckinnirey riff proves you right.

Overall, Your Town is a well-crafted and worthwhile album of post-punk, even if after listening to it you’ll want it to creep back into the shadows of the ill-lit warehouse it crawled out of. This is music for dank basements and crushed hopes.

For FasterLouder

Interview: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

craig finn

THERE’S A TRACK on the new Hold Steady album called ‘On With The Business’, and that’s exactly what singer-guitarist Craig Finn is getting. It’s been four years since Heaven Is Whenever saw the band’s music maturing and the then 38 year-old’s lyrics further enforcing his reputation as a rock and roll storyteller of the highest order. It’s easy to see why Finn’s lyrics are what they are, as he reels off names of writers you’ve never heard of.

The engaging and erudite Minneapolis-raised New York native is still telling stories with his literature-rich lyrics on new album Teeth Dreams, and since the departure of flamboyantly moustachioed keyboardist Franz Nicolay after 2008’s excellent Stay Positive, the band has taken on an extra guitarist. With a fatter, Thin Lizzy-esque dual guitar sound, The Hold Steady may have reached a new phase in their musical life cycle, but while Finn is happy to talk up his band’s new dynamic and approach to making music, he’s equally happy to chew the fat on a range of other subjects, from chasing girls as a youngster to Nirvana and the future of rock.

Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel to have it out there?

It feels really good, you know. This is the same as any album, but they take so long to get out; we recorded it in August and it was mixed in October. I’m just excited to be out here playing these songs for people. We went down and did SXSW and played seven times, but they were all these short showcases, and I’m excited to now be playing real shows to the real fans.

How did the new material go down at SXSW?

It went great and continues to go great. It’s always fun to have a new record out; you go and do a new song, and now that it’s out people jump up and sing the words, and you’re like “alright; these guys have got the record”. It feels really good.

Do you feel nervous playing songs live for the first time?

You get sort of nervous, but in some ways it’s also great because you have to pay attention a little more or be on autopilot a little less. In that sense it’s really nice; it’s kind of more of a challenge and you have to think about it, and that’s really cool. You’re maybe paying attention to different things than you are for the rest of the set, in a good way.

Why has it been four years since your last album?

We were going really hard, you know? We did five albums in seven years and toured extensively on each of them. Things were kind of fatiguing; the wheels were falling off the wagon, so to speak. I think everyone was a little tired, and creatively we weren’t in a very good place. We took a break and I made a solo record, which took some time, then we started trying to make this record. The one thing that’s different about this record is that [guitarist] Steve Selvidge joined for it. This is the first record we wrote and recorded with him, and now we have two guitar players. He had joined on the touring for the last record, but this is the first we had wrote and recorded with him. He lives in Memphis and the rest of us live in New York, so there was a bit of a geographic hurdle to get over when we started writing. It was a little formal at first, or a little forced, but we got over it eventually and wrote a ton of songs; maybe even over-writing. We had way more songs than we needed, but once our producer Nick Raskulinecz came in it happened quickly. He was like “you guys have plenty of songs for a record, let’s just go make this thing”.

What makes Steve Selvidge a good fit for The Hold Steady?

We had met him as a guitar player in an opening band years before; a band called The Bloodthirsty Lovers. Tad [Kubler, guitar] and Steve hit it off right away; they started playing guitar together and he seemed a good fit personality-wise, and then we found out that Tad and him were born on the exact same day. We thought if we were going to do a two-guitar line-up, then this was meant to be. It’s a push and pull thing between their guitars; the way they play back and forth and the way they play with each other. That’s come to define this album, and it’s a huge part of our sound now.

Do you enjoy recording or can it be a chore?

There are a lot of parts that don’t have a lot to do with me, you know? There’s a technical aspect to it, and then there are all the instruments that you aren’t playing. Depending on how you’re making the record, there can be a lot of downtime. I like making the records, but there are days which are pretty slow. I really like playing shows, so the record is a way to go out and introduce your songs to people and go out on tour again. I guess I like touring better than recording, although I love to see things fit together, and the creative moments are really fun.

What is it that appeals to you about writing about female characters in your lyrics?

For one I think so many stories we tell – whether it’s songs, books, movies or whatever – are about boy meets girl, so you need girls in there. Being of the opposite sex, there’s a mystery there for me, and I think in many books and movies the female is empowered with his mystery. Ultimately, being in a band whose audience is largely male, I need to find a way to make real women characters who you can really empathise with and that are very human. That becomes important for me.

Why do you think there are so few musicians doing the same thing?

In the big picture, I think for a lot of people lyrics are an afterthought. I’ve always been obsessed with characters in songs, and one of the things I’ve tried to do – rather than just introduce characters – is character development. Sometimes going back to these characters means I can flesh them out a bit more; that may be one of the ways that they might be a little more realised as humans.

In the song ‘On With The Business’ you mention “that American sadness”. Can you define what that is?

I got that from an interview that I read with David Foster Wallace. He’s a writer I’ve been obsessed with; I’ve read all his books and probably every interview he’s ever done. He talks about this particular American sadness, or the understanding that there’s a void inside us. There’s a realisation that no matter what we do, or what we try to fill it with – meaning drugs and alcohol or consumer goods, you know, stuff; there’s still sort of an emptiness. That song is about consumerism and about how these characters are doing whatever they can do to get ahead, and by that it means they just get more stuff. It’s the first time I’ve written about that kind of consumerism, and it made me think of the American sadness quote.

What plans do you have for touring, and can we expect an Australian trip at any point?

I’m hoping we can tour Australia either late 2014 or early 2015. We’ll be in the States for the [northern hemisphere] summer and hopefully get back to Europe in the fall; we have quite a bit of touring planned. I think we’ll probably come for your summer. Our winter, your summer would be ideal.

A couple of off-topic questions to finish up. There has been quite a resurgence in interest in Nirvana recently, surrounding the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. How much of an influence did Nirvana have in your life?

I was pretty entrenched in underground punk and hardcore music by the time Nirvana came into my life. I wasn’t an obsessive Nirvana fan; I certainly appreciated them, but I guess I was already kind of committed to that kind of thing. I have to admit that after Nirvana came out, it sort of became okay for certain girls to look at a guy like me; a more alternative guy or more weird guy. Kurt Cobain definitely helped my cause with a few girls.

Do you see them as being worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction so soon?

Absolutely. Even though I wasn’t obsessed with them at the time, the songs absolutely stand the test of time. He was a great, great singer and so many people held on to that and if you look at how many people he moved and the sea change they represented in the early ’90s, they are more than worthy.

The Arctic Monkeys recently claimed rock and roll has returned. How is it looking from your viewpoint?

It doesn’t seem to me to be at its most popular. I feel that younger people seem to like electronic music more, and hip hop is really big. I think the younger someone is, the less likely they are [to be] into rock and roll, but that said, I see die-hards every night we play. I don’t think it’s going anywhere and I don’t think it’s ever gone away. I think it’s always going to be here, but I don’t know if I believe if it’s ‘back’ or at a particularly strong point right now. I think probably in a couple of years a 22 year-old whiz kid will come out and capture the hearts and minds of young people, and that’s when rock and roll will have a resurgence on a commercial level. Right now I think it’s just holding steady; no pun intended.

TEETH DREAMS BY THE HOLD STEADY IS OUT NOW.

Record review: The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams (2014, LP)

The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams

It’s been four years since The Hold Steady’s last album; a long time between drinks for a band often called one of America’s hardest working. The departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay after 2008’s excellent Stay Positive left 2010’s Heaven Is Whenever sounding like a band re-grouping and consolidating their position rather than taking on a new lease of life. The breathing space Nicolay left has since been filled by the addition of former Lucero guitarist Steve Selvidge, resulting in a fatter twin lead guitar sound, but the flair and dynamism the moustachioed keyboardist took with him is still sorely missed on this sixth album from the New York via Minneapolis rockers. That being said, all the usual stories of booze-soaked lost souls “waking up with that American sadness” – as Craig Finn sings on ‘On With The Business’ – are present and correct, and the singer-guitarist’s lyrics provide more depth and ideas in a single verse than many contemporaries do on an entire album. The reason why Teeth Dreams won’t be remembered as a classic Hold Steady album is that each song melts into the one before and the one after with no real discernible difference in sound. There’s nothing of the standard of ‘Stuck Between Stations’ or ‘Sequestered In Memphis’, and even the attempt at an attention-grabbing, riff-laden opener ‘I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You’ wouldn’t qualify as a B-side on some of the quintet’s earlier work. Indeed, many long-time Hold Steady fans will be left with the nagging feeling that perhaps Nicolay left at exactly the right time.