Review: Foo Fighters deliver blistering hit-filled set in Abu Dhabi's Etihad Park

The US band delivered a muscular performance at Etihad Park

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It may have been a long time coming and a road etched with tragedy, but the Foo Fighters finally made it to Etihad Park on Sunday to close the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix after-race concert series.

Foo Fighters rounded off a strong and eclectic lineup of after race concerts, beginning with Dutch DJ Tiesto and US pop-singer Ava Max on Thursday. They were followed by RnB star Chris Brown on Friday and Canadian country pop star Shania Twain in a timeless set at Abu Dhabi F1 concert's nostalgic set on Saturday.

The US rockers were initially due to headline the 2021 race day show before being forced to cancel due to the ill health of former member Taylor Hawkins, who died the following year.

After a break to take emotional stock, the band returned this year with the cathartic album But Here we are and world tour taking in stadiums and festivals across the US and Europe.

Abu Dhabi fans benefitted from those efforts because the rejuvenated sextet, led by the irrepressibly front-man Dave Grohl, were in scorching form.

All my Life is the ideal opener as it’s an anthem about resilience and defiant cry against stagnation.

Those emotions swell as the track moves from brooding verse before exploding in a wailing trio of guitars and Grohl’s guttural roar.

Then Learn to Fly arrives and the crowd were up for the moment as the voices of more than 20,000 people bellowed across Etihad Park.

No Son of Mine, one of the better tracks from 2021’s lukewarm album Medicine at Midnight, has the band locking into a muscular '70s-rock groove before transitioning into a righteous snippets of Metallica‘s Enter Sandman of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.

The Pretender maintains the energy with its propulsive chorus before segueing into the triumphant Walk.

”Do you love rock’n’roll?” Grohl screamed over the roar of the crowd. “Because that’s what I am here for.”

Indeed.

While the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after-race concerts have welcomed rock bands in previous years, from Aerosmith in 2009 and Muse in 2013 to Guns N’ Roses in 2018 and Def Leppard last year, they rarely matched the intensity and sheer sense of abandon exhibited by the Foo Fighters.

1999's Breakout, a song Grohl dedicated to old school fans, was simply furious, while Monkey Wrench – released two years prior– had Grohl delivering one of his trademark brain-melting screams.

Watching the band blazing on stage, I also realised how the Foo Fighters are not only a well-oiled machine, but partly a supergroup.

In addition to Grohl’s celebrated history with former band Nirvana, rhythm guitarist Pat Smear also had a stint with Nirvana after being a member of seminal punk band, The Germs.

The unassuming keyboardist in the corner is none other than Rami Jaffee, whose evocative notes are heard in the 1997 hit One Headlight by former band The Wallflowers.

The latter’s contributions particularly shine on the Foo Fighters' slower songs.

Times Like These begins almost like a gospel tune with Grohl's singing in the opening verses on top of Jaffee’s lush organ riffs.

This live version is far superior to the full throttled original as it truly examples the song's message of resilience.

My Hero also began quietly with Grohl only guitar, before the band joined for the mountainous chorus.

By the time closing numbers, the thumping Best of You and a rousing take of Everlong, devoted fans would have realised the band didn’t play any songs from the aforementioned excellent album But Here We Are.

This is a pity as the record has some of the band’s best material, such as the emotive rockers Rescued and The Glass.

Then again, this is a small complaint with a performance bursting with songs that has become modern rock staples.

“It took us 28 years to get here,” Grohl said during the show.

Let's hope an encore performance happens much sooner.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 1:17 PM