Gaz Coombes: Supergrass mastermind served as an artful opener to the Foo set.
During the groups’ July 28 pairing at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena,
1 War Memorial Square, those two holdouts let Central New York fans
know that they shouldn’t worry about the state of rock. Still,
confounded, younger fans in the audience who missed the 1990s alt-rock
heyday never had the pleasure of experiencing Supergrass for the sort
of intricate, deep album cuts that have been the band’s creative
hallmark since its 1994 formation in the United Kingdom. Perhaps if
lead singer Gaz Coombes had launched into the band’s only song
to have achieved commercial success in the states, “Pumping On Your
Stereo,” a resounding “Ohhhh!” would have resulted from the clueless.
Instead Supergrass, a band named for a
British slang term that refers to narcotics officer characters, rocked
out the nearly packed arena like they were playing any dive pub in
London. They had fun, kept it loose and played whatever the hell they
damn well pleased.
Dave Grohl: Foo Fighters frontman lead his band through a loud July 28 set in Rochester. MATT MUMAU PHOTOS
The band is touring to support Diamond Hoo Ha
(EMI), released in March as the sixth item of their discography. But
they also pulled out a classic run of “Caught By the Fuzz,” the group’s
first single, which tells the tale of getting busted with some illicit
substances on a tour bus. They also did “Strange Ones,” a tune from the
same era about, as Coombes explained, “the sort of blokes we used to
Supergrass delivered those post-punk
numbers on a set of Hiwatt cabinets, a brand of amp created for The
Who’s Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. That choice of gear is perhaps
the benefit of Coombes having performed “Bargain” with the Foos during
VH1’s recent Rock Honors: The Who special; Coombes subbed for Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl,
whose voice was bum for the show. For those who had missed that
historic (for VH1, at least) show, which also included the likes of
Pearl Jam, Tenacious D and the Flaming Lips, the same setup was
repeated during a later Foos encore, as Grohl unabashedly performed the
song’s guitar part, while Coombes shared his cockeyed charm on vocals
during his ear-bleeding rendition.
Supergrass handled the energetic
pop-rocker “Diamond Hoo Ha Man,” as well as the more folkie sound of
“St. Petersburg,” from the band’s 2005 album Road to Rouen
(Capitol), which is more in line with the ambient sounds of “Moving.”
By the time Supergrass evoked a few final screeches of feedback, which
resounded on stage while they thanked the crowd, their grip on rock’s
more artful, richer side had been firmly demonstrated.
Grohl hovered in the darkness of the
auditorium during the Foos’ opener, “Let It Die,” as he baited female
singers in the audience to shriek “I love you, Dave” on decibel levels
akin to Beatlemania. It kicked off a nearly three-hour rock show that
was, in the most simple of terms, loud. If that kind of
legendary treatment is valid for anyone, however, it is for Grohl, a
driving force through two of rock’s latest epochs. Grohl had spent four
years in the early 1990s as the most kick-ass drummer on the planet
during his stint with alt-rock gods Nirvana. When the band broke up in
1994 after the Kurt Cobain tragedy, Grohl was responsible for another
rock revolution with Foo Fighters, psychedelically named for the code
that British World War II pilots used for unidentified flying objects.
Grohl had no qualms bragging about that history; he noted on stage that because of the band’s seven studio albums, it simply must
get through a large number of hits to please all fans. He informed the
audience to strap in for a lengthy “big, wild rock show,” shouted with
self-satisfied glee. The Rochester show marked the second-to-last gig
on the Foo promotional tour for the ambitious Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace (RCA), a far more meandering, less satirical work than the band has released in the past.
Harder numbers like “The Pretender,”
“Learn to Fly” and “Cheer Up Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)” roared in
the Blue Cross Arena. Those tracks implored fans to remember what it
was like to thrash at a live performance with the unstoppable force of
pure rock guitar via Grohl and ax master Chris Shiflett, impeccable drum work via phenom Taylor Hawkins
(who still has the balls and skill to drum in a band fronted by one of
the greatest skin-hitters alive) and the reliably classical foundation
laid by bassist Nate Mendel.
Grohl led the band through some of its
lesser-known tracks, including “Breakout,” a mind-bender from the
soundtrack for Jim Carrey’s raunchy flick Me, Myself and Irene,
as well as acoustic renditions of “Skin and Bones” and the puppy-dog
love song “Everlong,” which Grohl played solo and dedicated to fans who
were singing along to every word. Grohl went through enough material to
help fans remember the singles they’d forgotten over the years, a fact
that demonstrated the sheer breadth that the band has developed.
After asking how many old-school fans
remained in the arena, an entire auditorium of people shot their hands
into the air, a fact that Grohl took as being appropriate to
pre-empting “Big Me,” the band’s earliest single. Along with The Who’s
aforementioned “Bargain,” the concert came to a close with “Best of
You,” leaving fans with numb eardrums and heads full of dancing
rock’n’roll sugar plums. Grohl’s Foo Fighters proved without a doubt
that the band has the potential to stay ripe for decades more, that
he’s at the top of his game and he couldn’t be happier about it.