In early July Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett released ‘Hard Lessons’, the latest entry in his evolution as a solo artist. Whilst taking part in the usual album promotional cycle Shiflett appeared on the ‘Church of What’s Happening Now’ podcast, hosted by comedian and actor Joey “Coco” Diaz.
As well as discussing his new record the subject of Foo Fighters live set lists came up, with the axeman explaining to the host that Foo Fighters are never likely to be a band that plays B-Sides and obscure tracks regularly, suggesting that it’s not what the majority of fans want to hear.
Suffice to say those comments stoked a bit of friendly discussion on social media between Chris and fans of the band, both sides raising valid points as to why they should or shouldn’t vary the sets a little more. We got involved in the discussions and started looking into the historical setlist data, to see just how unbalanced (or not) the live shows are towards “the hits”.
That then led us to the ‘Your Perfect Setlist’ project. We wanted to ask you what your ideal set list would look like if given the ultimate choice. We knew the results would be rather skewed towards the hardcore fans, the ‘nerds’ as Dave playfully refers to us, but we still thought it’d be interesting to try and get a wide range of opinions on the matter, to see which side of the discussion might be vindicated.
We asked you to list up to 25 songs and after hundreds of submissions we can now reveal the results.
As you can see when it came to choosing an opener there was no clear winner with a huge variety of songs selected by you. That being said, the classic ‘All My Life’ did just come out on top, with ‘In Your Honor’ close behind. Some other selections included the never-before-played ‘T-Shirt’, the first song on the first album ‘This Is A Call’ and one of you wanted the show to open with a full performance of the Dave Grohl composition ‘PLAY’.
For choosing the song to end the set things were much more clear cut with ‘Everlong’ being the landslide winner, the closer from the early days of the band, ‘Exhausted’, a distant second. A few of you perhaps took the selection in a somewhat literal manner with ‘The Last Song’, ‘Home’ and ‘See You’ all getting selected.
The final setlist
So with that in mind, we can now present the aggregate 25 song set list as chosen by you. Despite being the second most popular pick we’ve selected ‘In Your Honor’ for the opening track as we felt ‘All My Life’ works well in other spots, whereas the former is a quintessential opener. We’ve arranged the other top 23 songs that you picked into a fairly realistic order and so without further ado, here is your perfect setlist:
So there you have it, an interesting mix. A large chunk of the current set list is still present, with lots of the hits. ‘Everlong’ lead the way overall as the most popular choice, followed by ‘All My Life’, ‘The Pretender’, ‘Best Of You’ and ‘Times Like These’ closing out the top 5 picks. Does this validate Chris’ opinion that the majority want to hear the hits? It seems to do, to a degree.
‘Stacked Actors’ has recently returned to the real set list a couple of times and here it finished in 13th position, beating out some other heavy hitters quite comfortably, perhaps suggesting fans would love to hear it back more often.
Another song with a strong showing is ‘Hey, Johnny Park!’ ranking in 17th position and whilst the band have played this semi-regularly in recent years again perhaps there is call for it more often, especially when you consider it wasn’t even a single.
Despite the apparent lack of overall enthusiasm for the ‘Sonic Highways’ album the lead track ‘Something From Nothing’ did still make the cut as the 20th most popular choice. Also appearing towards the end of the main list were some of the older singles like ‘I’ll Stick Around’ and ‘DOA’. Just sneaking in was a favourite of the “hardcore” fans, ‘Aurora’.
Other stats and analysis
So that is the headline set list, but what else can we tell about what fans want? Here are some further stats
There was a wide range of songs from Foo Fighters catalogue chosen, although many of those were in small numbers. Songs like ‘Burn Away’, ‘Win Or Lose’ and ‘Soldier’ appeared in a handful of your setlists as did the super nerdy stuff like ‘I’m Alone Again’ and ‘Hooker’.
Covers were pretty popular across your setlists with the current staple ‘Under Pressure’ topping the choices, followed by some of the tracks they used to cover back in the day. Also just making the top 5 was ‘Kids In America’, only ever recorded by Dave back in 1991.
In terms of cover songs they’ve never previously attempted in any capacity Queen tracks were popular, with some of you wanting to hear their take on ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, ‘A Kind Of Magic’ and ‘These Are The Days Of Our Life’.
If you were wondering about those four related songs selected three of them were from the Sound City Project (‘Your Wife Is Calling’, ‘If I Were Me’, ‘From Can To Can’t’) whilst one of you wanted to hear Foo Fighters tear through the Taylor Hawkins solo track ‘Range Rover Bitch’.
Tracks by album
Thousands of songs were selected overall, but how did they split across the nine studio albums? Which albums are, on the whole, people clamouring to hear tracks from? The following chart shows what percentage of the overall selection came from which album (discounting all other tracks in the calculations).
The split is surprisingly quite even across the nine albums although there is a clear winner and loser, with ‘The Colour And The Shape’ still being the most popular album and their eighth album, Sonic Highways, sadly sitting in a distant last spot with just 5% of songs selected coming from that album.
So that is the breakdown for albums as a whole, but what about the most popular picks per each of that album? Here we looked at the top three for each.
Once again there is nothing too surprising here. The results consist mostly of the biggest hits from each album, although ‘Wattershed’ sneaking into the top three for the debut album and ‘Sunday Rain’ doing the same for Concrete And Gold is quite interesting. We can also once again re-iterate how popular ‘Stacked Actors’ was, second only to ‘Learn To Fly’ for There Is Nothing Left To Lose.
The overall top 25 consisted entirely of tracks from their nine studio albums but how did the other tracks fair? Here are the top 20 non-album tracks, be it they were on an EP, a B-Side or anything elsewhere.
As you can see the Saint Cecilia EP tracks were VERY popular. In fact the title track only just missed out on being in the overall top 25, ranking at number 29. Ironically ‘Sean’, the only song on the EP the band have actually played live, is the only one of the five tracks not to make the top 10, coming in at 14th. But the call from fans is clear here we think, they want to hear the other tracks on the EP!
‘Normal’ and ‘Walking A Line’ also make an appearance in the top 10, a strong showing for B-Sides from the One By One era that have to-date never been played live. Maybe they should be pulled out one day, assuming the band like them?
Further down the list we see a mixture of deep cuts that the band have occasionally pulled out live before, like ‘Butterflies’ and ‘How I Miss You’, plus some more that they haven’t. Whilst it would be nice to hear some of these choices every now and again we should be clear, the number of people choosing the songs from the tail end of this list are in single digits.
So there you have it. As we’ve said since the start with this project, it is obvious that the results are not going to represent the hundreds of thousands of fans around the world that go to see Foo Fighters in concert. It was always going to represent a much more focused group of fans online, their biggest and most dedicated fans.
With that said, the results still present a few interesting points. Firstly, that the overall aggregate set list is not wildly different to the set lists the band currently play. Sure, plenty of people went crazy selecting B-Sides and deep cuts for their set lists but once all of the submissions are collected together, the big hits still win out. So as we already said, this surely does vindicate Chris’ original point in that most fans do come for the hits.
However we can also still see that the fans we polled are on the whole still looking for some variety, and for some songs to come back to the set lists on a more regular basis. We also see that there is a pretty significant demand to hear tracks from the 2015 ‘Saint Cecilia’ EP.
Thank you to everyone that took part in our little experiment. We hope that somewhere, someone from the band has taken notice of the results and maybe, just maybe will make some small alterations to future set lists.