There are few bands in the world who could fill a space the size of the Milton Keynes Bowl, let alone a rock band with something of a limited mainstream appeal. But, looking out at the scene as the Foo Fighters launch in to their massive 2-hour set, the strengths of this band and the dedication of their fans are clear to see.
But first things first, Tame Impala (***), those 4 skinny guys from Australia, open up proceedings, entirely dwarfed by the size of the stage, each member standing motionless throughout their set. Luckily their space-out delay-heavy psychedelia works well in this setting, and their swirling soundscapes help the evening get off to a mellow start.
Death Cab For Cutie (***) fair better with the crowd, garnering polite applause. As a frontman, Ben Gibbard is likeable and charming, and the band are on flawless form. However, a venue this size doesn’t quite fit their musical style, and their intimate songs lose some of their impact, especially with the muddy sound mix.
Scottish trio Biffy Clyro (*****) steal the show tonight. At the front, chants of “‘mon the Biff” become almost deafening as their soundcheck comes to completion, and there is a frenetic energy in the air. As the band walk on, the crowd goes crazy. Opener ‘The Captain’ sends the pit into a swirling frenzy, only continuing to up the ante with ‘That Golden Rule’. The band stick mostly with songs from their more recent, commercially successful releases, ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Only Revolutions’, but fan service is paid with a superb run-through of ‘Justboy’ and ‘Glitter And Trauma’. It’s powerful and passionate stuff, with Simon Neil‘s abrasive staccato guitar threatening to derail the songs at any time, Ben and James Johnson (as well as a great turn from touring guitarist Mike Vennart, frontman from the now-split Oceansize) valiantly matching the pace and holding the structure together. They close their set with ‘Mountains’, leaving to the shouts and applause of 65,000 people.
Main attraction Foo Fighters (****) are on great form tonight and play every song a fan could want to hear from their sizeable back catalogue, but there is something missing from their set. Like their latest album ‘Wasting Light’, there is a definite workman-like feel to this show. It is rehearsed to perfection and the music is great, but it all feels too predictable and safe. The set gets off to a relatively slow start, leaning heavily on songs from the new album, but picks up as Grohl and his gang delve back to the glory days of ‘The Colour And The Shape’ and ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’. ‘My Hero’ is still one of their best songs and gets a superb reaction, while the likes of ‘Stacked Actors’ and ‘All My Life’ get the mosh pits going and the crowd dancing.
Dave Grohl is one of the best frontmen in the business, and masterfully encourages and instructs from the stage. ‘Best Of You’ is a great highlight, with the whole venue “Wa-oh”-ing acapella as the band watch, massive smiles on their faces. This is the pinnacle of the set; even surprise guest appearances from Queen drummer Roger Taylor (to play on ‘Cold Day In The Sun’) and Alice Cooper (to play his classic ‘School’s Out’) can’t top it.
As always, the set closes with ‘Everlong’ as fireworks launch from behind the stage. It has been a superb show, much as everyone in attendance would expect from the Foos. It’s just unfortunate that the feeling of their performance is all to safe and middle-of-the-road.
Written by Grant Bailey