Thursday, December 11, 2014

Foo Fighters Live in Cape Town - Meeting My Hero

Excuse me whilst I faint, that's me and the Foos

Late Wednesday afternoon, I watched a convoy of men on motorbikes head up the driveway of the One&Only Hotel. One had a beard. Maybe it's Dave Grohl, I thought, rolling my eyes, completely certain that it really was not - seriously, one of the biggest legends in rock music history, casually riding around Cape Town hours before his first ever South African show? Unlikely. A quick browse of social media, however, told me that I had been wrong - it was, in fact, Grohl, and suddenly excitement hit me like a ten tonne truck: I was seeing the Foo Fighters.

I'd always said that there were four celebrities I would love to meet: Brandon Flowers, Chris Martin, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. And I'd almost achieved the first three, having stood metres from Martin, and grasped hands with Springsteen and Flowers during concerts. Closest I'd ever been to Mr Grohl? About 50 metres from the stage, separated from My Hero by a few thousand rowdy British youths at 2012's Reading Festival, an hour outside London. He was unattainable. Some kind of supreme being, who - despite being lauded as the nicest guy in rock and roll - just didn't seem to really exist. Imagine my surprise when Big Concerts said I could meet him after winning a competition. Oh, that will be nice.

But let me back track to what I was doing outside the hotel in the first place, and what competition this is that I'm referring to.

Every now and then something completely freaking ridiculous happens. You sit at the Edinburgh airport, too tired to even cry about your post-concert depression, then you look up and see your favourite band's private jet taking off. You meet a touring band member in a Starbucks and they recognise you from the internet. Stuff like that, ya know? And when Big Concerts announced that I was the winner of their meet and greet competition, I felt like something inside my head broke. I spent the next two days constantly on the verge of a breakdown, rocking back and forth whispering 'Dave Grohl'. It registered somewhere in my barely-functioning brain that the last time I'd felt this kind of weird, anxious, almost-in-tears excitement was in the lead-up to 2011's Coldplay concert. 

But onto the hotel....of course, everything goes back to The Killers. Years after I'd been to see them in Paarl, I had found out (read: done some creeping and found out) that they had stayed at the One & Only in Cape Town. Several more years of creeping revealed that this was one of the only hotels in town where the Big Bands are accommodated. Now, I can put two and two together, and figure out that the Foos would be staying at this exact hotel. But, alas, no, I did not stand outside their hotel for hours on end, decked out in a Foo Fighters t-shirt and "I Heart Dave" poster. In fact, I was at the hotel for a legitimate reason - it happens to serve the best high tea in Cape Town, and it's my birthday next week, I love tea, you can see where I'm going with this. The deposit for my tea was due, and by a miracle sent from the gods of the internet, my EFT payment refused to work, and I was forced to go into the hotel to pay and secure my tea booking. Total co-incidence that it's right at the Waterfront, where I was headed to park for the concert. So, in I stroll, still perhaps wishing to bump into the Foos, but of course not expecting too - things like that just don't happen. I should have learned my lesson from a certain Rob Likes Lattes in a Starbucks in Leeds, circa 2012: things like that do happen. 

We're halfway to the restaurant reservations desk, when my mother begins to elbow me furiously. "Drummer, drummer, Taylor, drummer."  Sure enough, Taylor Hawkins stands in the lobby, grinning and chatting to a few burly bodyguards. I try to act cool and avoid his eye, pretend I don't know who he is, but he grins in our direction: "Hi, ladies." And I just died. I'm not sure if I said hello back or not, but I calmly proceeded to pay my bill and then high-tailed it out of there before any other Foo Fighter could surprise me like that. We're down the driveway and across the road when the aforementioned convoy of bikes pulls in, and we're sitting down to lunch when I take a squizz at Facebook and find out that it really was Dave. Now I'm sitting in the Spur, hand over my mouth, giggling like a lunatic, because I just saw Dave Freaking Grohl. 

Then it's the trek to the stadium, and so somehow I find myself first in a line of about 40 people, separated from the Foos by only a thin black curtain. Cue mild hyperventilation - what if I see Dave Grohl and just die? Right there on the floor - die! But I don't. 

One of the most surreal sensations I have ever experience was at the moment when said black curtain parted, to reveal the Foo Fighters in all their glory, Dave Grohl grinning broadly at me, sticking out his hand and saying "Hi, I'm Dave, and these are the Foo Fighters." Thanks for telling me your name, Dave. AS IF I DIDN'T KNOW! Taylor grins shiftily and says "Hey, I saw you guys earlier", and we're basically already best friends. The meet and greet itself was short but absolutely fantastic. We shook hands with all of the band members, and posed for a photo, before thanking them for coming to SA and being led from the room.

Only down side of having met Dave Grohl an hour before the show? It meant missing the first half of support act, Kaiser Chiefs' show, a pity because frontman Ricky Wilson is known for his incredibly energetic performances, and is guaranteed to entertain. After making it into the crowd as the band began 'Never Miss A Beat', I could see Wilson immediately barrelling down the T-shaped stage like a cannonball, and couldn't restrain himself from climbing some scaffolding during 'The Angry Mob'. They ended off with their standard, 'Oh My God', which must have rung true for them - "Oh my god, I can't believe it, I've never been this far away from home..." and though they had played in SA before, Cape Town Stadium must have been a whole new experience.

At exactly 9pm - right on time - the main act appeared like visions. Shiflett, Smear and Mendel smartly dressed and semi-formal, Hawkins looking like he'd just rolled off Camps Bay beach, and Grohl himself grinning that same toothy grin that characterised the 20-year-younger version of himself in his Nirvana days. Let it be said though, the smile is the only thing still reminiscent of the weedy Nirvana drummer - Grohl has aged like a fine wine.

The band wasted no time, launching straight into 'All My Life', then 'Rope', with barely a breath in between. Still with that manic grin, Grohl roared up and down the stage, like some kind of inhuman being, that is, perhaps, too talented to be real. Too much of an idea. Too far removed. But I've met him, and I know he's real. 

The hits came thick and fast, with arguably their most well-known song, 'The Pretender' going down a storm amongst the crowd, as did 'My Hero'. And of course my very favourite, 'Arlandria'.... you and what armyyyyyyyy? Just when we began to wonder when we might get a taste of the band's new material, 'Congregation' started. Inspired by the Nashville's country roots, and with subtly religious undertones, it has to be one of the greatest Foo Fighters songs ever. Other new songs were 'Something From Nothing', which has recently soared up the local charts, 'Outside' and 'In The Clear'. At one point, the young man next to me tapped me on the shoulder and asked "Do you know the lyrics to all the songs?" "Pretty much" I replied, although I wanted to say "What, don't you?!"

And if you were wondering if Grohl lived up to his reputation as the 'nicest guy in rock and roll' - he sure did. Having met Springbok Nude Girls' Theo Crous the day before, Dave invited the local musician onto the stage to perform Cheap Trick's 'Stiff Competition', with Grohl taking to the drums, and drummer Taylor Hawkins taking over vocals. 

Dave Grohl's stage presence is absolutely astounding. He thrives on being on stage and the passion of all five bands members is evident throughout the set. "We're simple guys, we don't do all this firework and confetti sh*t, we just play rock and roll!" And somehow, this simple rock and roll has an almost universal appeal - from the older couple we met outside the gates ("Bucket list stuff!" the lady had said, high-fiving me) to the group of teens behind us ("We've been queueing for two hours!"), everyone loves Foo Fighters. 

25 songs later, Grohl and company were finally ready to leave the stage. They ended with the absolutely spectacular 'Everlong', evoking emotion in every single crowd member. "We've got a long night ahead of us - we're not nearly done!" they had repeated throughout the set, much to the delight of the golden circle ticket holders who most definitely got their R960's worth. 

But the three-hour-long set took its toll on an audience clearly not accustomed to such long performances. The young lady next to me - who began the show headbanging so violently that I became concerned she might give herself a concussion - was found to be using her sister next to her's shoulder as a pillow before 11pm, and the bro next to her had sat himself firmly on the ground, back against the barrier, where he stayed until 'This Is A Call' gave him something of a second wind. 

Yes, it was a long set, and the feet of the best of us were left protesting feebly by midnight. But was it too long? Would I have traded it for the world? No, of course not. If it were up to me - and the band, if their enthusiasm was anything to go by - the Foo Fighters would still be on that stage, playing their hearts out. In fact, I'm trying very hard to restrain myself from sneaking up to Joburg for Saturday's show - Gauteng sure is in for a treat. 

Adapted review also on What's On In Cape Town.