It’s been 14 years since the Foo Fighters have played Spokane. Last time they were here, they set up shop at the Spokane Convention Center and sold tickets for $31. Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn opened.
A decade and a half later, the Foos remain one of the biggest rock acts in the world. They’ve moved across the river to the Spokane Arena, and while tickets are more than three times more expensive this time around, the show is close to selling out.
Since former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl recorded the first Foo Fighters record at the Robert Lang Studios in Shoreline, Washington, in 1994 – six months after Kurt Cobain’s suicide – the band has become an arena rock staple. The six-piece band now features Grohl, guitarists Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, drummer Taylor Hawkins, keyboardist Rami Jaffee and bass player (and Tri-Cities native) Nate Mendel, and are renowned for their high-energy live shows.
The band’s ninth album, “Concrete and Gold,” is their second to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, after “Wasting Light” in 2011. The lead-off single, “Run,” this week snagged Grammy nominations for best rock performance and best rock song. Grammy nominations are old hat for the Fighters of Foo. They’ve been nominated 27 times, have won 10 and hold the record for most wins in the best rock album category, having won for 2000 “There Is Nothing Left to Lose” (2000), “One By One” (2003), “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” (2007) and “Wasting Light” (2011).
Released in October, “Concrete and Gold” was greeted with mostly positive reviews. Rolling Stone already has put it on its list of the 50 best albums of 2017, at No. 49.
Working in secret – the band was on an “indefinite hiatus” at the time – the Foos recorded “Concrete and Gold” with an unexpected partner, producer Greg Kurstin, a former jazz pianist who has produced for the likes of Adele, the Shins, Pink and Kelly Clarkson.
The end result is an album that isn’t very poppy, although there are pop hooks galore. As Spin wrote in its review, “Kurstin’s stylistic fingerprints – lush synths, reverb-steeped vocals, tightly woven harmonies – are smeared all over ‘Concrete and Gold,’ rendering this the Foos’ most textured, nuanced release to date.”
And it’s a nuanced release that wears its rock influences on its sleeve. The title track might have you wondering where this new Pink Floyd song came from, while “La Dee Da” and “Make It Right” seem to channel Led Zeppelin. There are plenty of Beatles touches there, too. As Jon Parless noted of the lead-off single, “Run,” in his New York Times review of the album, “It begins with pretty guitar arpeggios — the Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’ in a hall of mirrors — but escalates to a buzzing, thrashing guitar riff backing distorted vocal, and goes on to whipsaw between half-speed arena chorus and fast headbanger. It hits hard without worrying about naturalism.”
There are guest spots all over the place, as well as a literal Beatles touch – “Sunday Rain” features Paul McCartney drumming (really) “behind a song absolutely stuffed with knowingly McCartney-esque melodic twists and turns,” as the Guardian noted. Justin Timberlake lends some “la la las” to “Make It Right,” and the Kills’ Alison Mosshart chimes in on “La Dee Da.” Most impressively, Boyz II Men’s Shawn Shockton’s vocals for the title track are stacked upon each others, giving the effect of a chorus, rather than a single voice.
As Grohl told Rolling Stone, he wrote the album’s lyrics in an Air BnB he rented in Ojai, California. “I brought a case of wine and sat there in my underwear with a microphone for about five days, just writing,” he says. “It happened at the perfect time. I was inspired by what was going on with our country – politically, personally, as a father, an American and a musician. There was a lot to write about.”
The tour for “Concrete and Gold” is huge, hitting Australia, South American, Europe and North America, and will run through 2018. The band is also visiting smaller markets for the first time, or at least the first time in years. In early November, the Foo Fighters made their first trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. From Spokane, they’ll play dates in Nampa and Eugene, as well as Billings, Montana, and Casper, Wyoming. But they’ve also already sold out two nights at Madison Square Garden in July and added a second date in Chicago after Wrigley Field sold out immediately. They’ll return to the Northwest in September with a stop Sept. 1 at Safeco Field in Seattle, on Aug. 8 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., and Sept. 10 at Portland’s Moda Center.
Recent set lists have varied somewhat, but fans likely will hear the hits they love. “Everlong,” “All My Life” and “Learn to Fly” are virtual certainties. There will be covers: Van Halen, AC/DC and Queen are in the band’s playbook. It’ll be loud. And it’ll be close to sold out, if not completely there. As of Tuesday, Arena officials report the joint is 80 percent full, and the floor is at capacity.